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Only 20pc newly built properties inspected

JUST one in five new properties were inspected for fire and other safety hazards while being built last year, the Irish Independent has learned.

Most new houses and apartments were never inspected by council officials at any stage of their construction.

Despite the clamour for more safety checks in the wake of the Priory Hall scandal, local authorities still rely by and large on the word of builders that everything is up to standard.

A new audit of council services by the State's Local Government Management Services Board has found that an average of only 20pc of new developments -- houses, apartments, and commercial properties -- were inspected last year, 10pc fewer in just three years.

And just one in 14 private rented houses were inspected to make sure they were up to standard.

A total of 14,600 new homes were built last year.

The level of inspections varies widely across the councils.

Not one new house in Waterford city or Wexford county was inspected last year; while Laois had a 100pc inspection rate, according to the audit report.

The national average is 20pc, the report discloses.

Separately, all of the Government's own housing inspectors who had been dealing with tens of thousands of tax break apartments and houses during the boom are being stood down.

Unconnected to their council counterparts, the 16 inspectors attached to the Department of the Environment have all been informed they are being transferred to other duties in the civil service.

A confidential internal department report obtained by the Irish Independent says the inspectors are no longer needed because of the slump in the property market.

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Their job had been to inspect buildings during construction and to issue certificates of compliance relating to tax breaks.

The official explanation is that the job will continue to be carried out by local authority building control staff.

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