Today in the Dáil, I spoke about fire safety issues and defects in properties. As Minister O'Brien outlines his Department's proposals, I ask him also to consider bringing my Defective Dwellings Bill (2021) to the second stage, considering its merits and quality.
See below for my full contribution.
Very shortly after I was elected to the Dáil, I was introduced to Pat Montague, the Construction Defects Alliance and the Apartment Owners Network. I would like to believe I have continued the good working relationship Minister Catherine Martin had with these organisations before me.
Following on from Minister Catherine Martin’s endeavors, I first set about assisting them through a hearing in the Housing Committee which provided clarity and a platform to voice their concerns and desires for redress, and in particular setting up a working group, which clearly had cross party support.
And I can say that shortly after this briefing a working group was set up by the Minister to examine a defects and redress process.
The figures are still unclear, but an estimated 100,000 homes in this state are affected by defects which currently are putting people at risk of living in unsafe, uninhabitable homes ranging from fire to structural and water ingress defects.
Since the report by the Working Group examining defects was published this summer, we’ve eagerly and patiently waited for the Minister and the interagency working group to publish the proposals. This week the Minister outlined the department's proposals. It is both reassuring and welcoming that the Minister has listened to the concerns of homeowners through his engagement with stakeholders and department officials, which I understand will include long-term solutions but also a set of interim measures. To my knowledge the Minister and his department is working under a ‘worst first’ strategy which will ensure that safety and fire issues are dealt with promptly. I welcome the establishment of a fire remediation section within the Housing Agency - so that those who apply to the scheme will have assistance from experts who can guide them through the process.
As I noted earlier in my statement, Minister Catherine Martin had worked extensively with parties affected by defects in the 32nd Dáil. Catherine began preparing a Defective Dwellings Bill, with the professional expertise of barristers Deirdre Ni Fhloinn and Conor Linehan, who spent a considerable amount of research and time putting together the bill. We are one of the only countries in the world who have not legislated in this manner to protect homeowners, I believe it is now time for such legislation allowing people to protect their homes from defective construction practices.
The Bill is summarised as follows - The purpose of the Bill is to make provision for the law relating to the liability of builders, developers and others involved in the carrying out of residential construction works; to specify certain requirements applicable to residential construction works; to provide for certain duties to apply to such works; to provide for a means of redress for persons affected by housing defects and to specify the limitation periods relating to claims for such redress and to provide for related matters.
I moved the Bill in the Dáil last September, and would be very grateful if the minister will bring the Defective Dwellings Bill to second stage as a government action considering its merits and providing a clear pathway for homeowners to find redress when confronted with a defect in their home.