Tuesday 25 October 2016

It's taxpayers who end up footing the bill for faulty homes

Published 01/10/2015 | 02:30

Longboat Quay Apartments near dublin's Grand Canal Dock. Photo: Mark Condren
Longboat Quay Apartments near dublin's Grand Canal Dock. Photo: Mark Condren

The Longboat Quay debacle is another sad legacy of the Celtic Tiger. We now know that some developers were so intent on throwing up homes they not only disregarded building standards, but also treated their customers' safety with utter contempt.

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The question now is just how many other problem developments are out there?

The simple answer is, we don't know. It's not until a building surveyor or engineer takes a good, hard look at the walls separating attics, or the partitions between apartments and common areas, or the ventilation systems or the fire alarms, that knowledge of problems emerges.

But when does that ever happen? It's generally only by chance that these problems are discovered. It's only through good fortune that we haven't learned about them following a serious incident resulting in loss of life.

It's well-known that building controls were largely absent during the boom years. The pressure was on to build, and local authorities were completely under-resourced and unable to police the sheer volume of new construction projects, which ranged from one-off homes to developments of hundreds of houses and apartments.

There was also a ridiculous self-certification system, where the developer effectively signed-off on the works, stating that everything was completed in line with the planning permission and the standards. Clearly that wasn't the case. The Government has since changed the rules, but waived them entirely for those building a one-off home, offering no protection to subsequent buyers.

And it's the taxpayer, and not those responsible, who pay the price when cavalier attitudes are employed - €27m for the Priory Hall fire safety works alone.

Faulty building work is not just confined to fire safety. There's the pyrite contamination problem, which the State is also footing the bill for, and the bills faced by homeowners forced to repair burst water pipes which ruptured because they weren't buried deep enough, in line with the building code.

Fire is an ever-present danger, with statistics showing that chimneys, faulty wiring and cigarettes are among the reasons why fire brigades visited more than 13,000 properties last year, with 37 people dying in fires.

Between 2012 and 2014, councils issued 267 fire safety notices, ordering that certain works be carried out. Two-thirds were issued by Dublin City Council alone.

It's of little comfort to residents of Longboat Quay that their homes will be added to those statistics, and that they - and not those responsible - will likely end up paying the bill to make safe their homes, which have already cost them so much.

Irish Independent

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