Eight in 10 new homes not being inspected for defects

Thousands of new homes have not been inspected by local authorities despite the fallout from the Priory Hall scandal, reports the Irish Independent.

Eight in every 10 houses and apartments built every year are not being checked for structural defects and possible breaches of the fire safety code, the Irish Independent has learned.

And the number of homes being inspected is steadily falling, resulting in properties being sold to an unsuspecting public without basic checks being carried out.

The drop is despite shoddy building work resulting in hundreds of residents of Priory Hall, a north Dublin estate, being evacuated from their homes more than 18 months ago because they were fire traps.

New figures show that not one house or apartment was inspected in Co Galway or north Tipperary in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, because there was no building control officer.

Another county, Roscommmon, said its officer was on “long-term” absence, meaning that few homes could be inspected.

City and county councils are supposed to carry out random inspections of new buildings but a lack of staff and financial pressures means that just under 22pc of new homes are examined.

A report comparing the performance of each local authority during 2011 shows that inspection rates range from none to more than half of all new buildings.

The ‘Service Indicators in Local Authorities’ report shows:

• Just one in five new homes was inspected in 2011, a drop from 2009 when one in three was examined.

• None were inspected by Galway County Council and North Tipperary County Council.

• Other poor performers include Donegal (8pc of the total), Fingal (9.97pc) and Waterford City (10.61pc).

• Most inspections were carried out in South Tipperary (66pc), followed by Carlow (55pc), Kerry (44pc), Meath (38pc) and Kildare (35pc).

• Some 9,295 private houses were constructed in 2011. The figures show that 7,251 were not checked.

Developers of shoddy buildings face being jailed for two years under building regulations being introduced from next March.

The regulations are aimed at avoiding the mistakes of the housing boom where poorly constructed homes, pyrite damage and structures breaching fire regulations left thousands of homeowners out of pocket and at risk of death or serious injury.

Under the old rules, a builder nominated a person to sign off on construction of new dwellings based on their opinion, and often without visiting the site during construction.

It meant that the building regulations were, effectively, based on an honour system where it was assumed homes would be properly constructed. In 2006, just one in four homes was checked to see if it conformed to regulations.

Many homeowners have since learned, to their misfortune, that this was far from the reality.

From next March, “assigned certifiers” – who can be registered architects, engineers or building surveyors – will inspect building works at key stages during construction.

The assigned certifier and the builder will both have to certify that a finished building complies with regulations, or risk prosecution.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said there would be an increase in the number of building inspectors in local authorities from next year.

“We will be adopting a code of practice this year to set out clearly what the responsibilities are for the professionals and local authorities,” he said. Source: The Irish Independent.