Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
The matter I raise relates to owner-occupiers who find themselves in what can only be termed desperately distressing circumstances where they face bills of up to €50,000 to address fire safety defects in their apartments. These problems are not of their own making. Many landlords are also facing these costs but they are able to offset the cost of maintenance, repairs, insurance and, crucially, management charges against their rental income. Those reliefs are not available to owner-occupiers. When Deputy Nash asked about the ability of local authorities and approved housing bodies to offset these costs, particularly the cost of remediating fire defects, it emerged that they are also excluded.
What tax reliefs and financial supports are available to owner-occupiers to help them defray the cost of remediation? Do we think it just and fair that a landlord can offset these massive costs but a homeowner, local authority or approved housing body cannot do so? What message does this send about who the Government is looking after?
I am conscious that the Government failed to do anything in this budget regarding this matter. It argued that it was premature to act in advance of the working group recommendations, which we hope to see next year. I believe there is a very clear responsibility to ensure in the Finance Bill that owner-occupiers and landlords have access to the same tax reliefs.
I am conscious that this issue is emerging at a time when we have a massive housing crisis and there are thousands across this city and country who can only dream of owning an apartment or house. Those who own apartments would say they feel very fortunate to have bought during the 2000s but they are now living in a nightmare where the apartments they call home have become a source of such stress and cost. In my constituency, Dublin Central, I know of at least six blocks with over 1,000 units that are affected by these fire defects. In some ways, this is a drop in the ocean compared with what is happening in south Dublin and other places across this country. While the issue of defects came to light in the past three or four years, it was really only this year that management companies have had to ramp up management charges to an enormous degree simply because they will have no access to insurance or will face a colossal increase in insurance.They are being forced to deal with those potentially life-threatening construction defects that exist in the apartment block. I know of one block where the owners' management company, OMC, has had to ask owners to stump up almost €50,000 over the next year. In another block, the demand has been to stump up €15,000 between now and the end of the year. Think about that. How many of us would be able to write a cheque in the morning or do a bank transfer for €15,000, between now and Christmas? Another OMC has demanded a 16-fold increase in management charges. Tax relief in itself will not help defray the totality of the costs and we know the State will have to step in. We also know that the construction industry will have to foot some of that bill, because many of its members are responsible for what is going on, but we need to see action now. The clock is ticking. People are facing these bills. They cannot let these costs and bills go into next year or the year afterwards. They need support now. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.