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... But nobody is responsible as five groups say 'it's nothing to do with us'

A spokesperson: "The Building Control Act clearly places responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations on the owner of the building concerned and on the builder/developer who carries out the works.

"Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the Building Regulations and they have extensive powers under the Building Control Acts, which they can use to enforce compliance with building regulations.

"The proposed Building Control Amendment Regulations 2013 will strengthen the current arrangements in place for the control of building activity by requiring owners to formally assign a professional certifier to, among other tasks, certify the works for compliance with the building regulations on completion.

"Statutory certificates of compliance from builders and certifiers to confirm compliance with the building regulations and accept legal responsibility for their work will also be required. These regulations, when finalised, will only apply to new builds – they are not retrospective."

A spokesperson said: "The Foxford Court Housing Development had its origins in an agreement reached between SDCC and Newlyn Development for the development [of] an Affordable Housing Scheme, through which eligible applicants purchased affordable housing through a private sale.

"Under the Planning and Development Act, developers are responsible for constructing the development in accordance with the approved plans.

"This is regulated through a self-certification process in which the Local Authority has no direct involvement. The Council does not issue certificates to state that buildings are in compliance with building regulations. Such certification is the responsibility of the developer.

"In relation to fire safety within developments, the Chief Fire Officer of Dublin City Council oversees compliance with fire safety standards – ie, certification that the building design is in compliance. Fire safety is dealt with under a separate legislation to that of planning.

"It should be noted that, in this case, SDCC transferred the Freehold Title to Foxford Court Management Company Limited on 1st June 2006 and, accordingly, the Management Company is the registered owner."

More than 600,000 new homes have been registered and built with HomeBond insurance since 1978. Its website says it provides insurance cover in relation to 'deposits, stage payments and structural defects issues for new homes' for 10 years, and is underwritten by Allianz plc. It also covers 'water ingress and smoke penetration caused by major structural defects for 5 years'.

Despite this, they say they are not liable for damage that doesn't meet their definition of 'structural'. Spokesman David Curtin says: "The issue [regarding Foxford Court] is a safety issue and not a structural damage issue. It doesn't come under the definition of structural defect."

He added that the non-provision of fire-stops between apartments was essentially an "interior design" flaw – rather than inherent structural damage.

Spokesman Jimmy Healy admitted the issue at Foxford Court was a "huge mess". He said it comes down to how regulations were interpreted during the building boom. "There was no requirement to inspect every property. Rather, a sample number had to be inspected to issue fire safety certificates."

He added: "When a developer builds, they register with HomeBond and this should cover defects. However, they have already kicked to touch on the pyrite issue and that court ruling is now under appeal."

HomeBond won a court case taken over pyrite houses on the grounds that it was caused by faulty material, the responsibility for which lay with the supplier. This case is being appealed.

Insurance companies would be "very concerned" and "are bound to react badly" to news that apartments may not have correct preventative fire measures in place, says Brian McNelis, head of the Non-Life division of the Irish Brokers' Association.

Each householder is covered separately under their own house insurance policy and, in the event of a fire, insurers would pay the claim. But, if the policyholder is known to be aware of any material fact that would affect the policy, the onus is on them to declare it to their insurance company. Failing to do so could render the policy null and void.

A material fact would include information that the building was not fire-proofed, says Mr McNelis. If the homeowner is unaware of this, then the claim would most likely be paid, however the insurer could seek to recover the payout from whomever it considers responsible for a breach in regulations.

If the homeowner is aware of the risk and didn't inform the insurer this constitutes non-disclosure and they can seek to repudiate the claim.

The company did not respond to a request for comment from the Herald.