Thursday, 7 December 2017
Pyrite Remediation Programme
I thank the Cathaoirleach. I welcome the Minister of State here today and thank him for coming to discuss such an important issue. The reason I tabled a Commencement matter seeking Limerick to be included in the pyrite remediation scheme is because I wrote to the board that deals with pyrite, seeking Limerick to be included in the scheme, but, unfortunately, I was told that the scheme only applies to Leinster and the greater Leinster area, including Meath, Louth and Dublin. I know a lady who lives in a house with pyrite, and there are a number of similar houses alongside her. Three years ago she had a problem with her house. She approached her insurance company which sent an assessor to her house but that was the end of the matter. She then got an independent assessor to check her house who diagnosed pyrite and other problems. She has been told by the pyrite board that she cannot be considered for the scheme as her house is not located in the greater Leinster area or in Dublin. Unfortunately, as she does not live in the Leinster area or greater Dublin area, she does not qualify for the tax relief that applies to the local property tax, LPT, either.
The pyrite remediation scheme needs to be broadened as other areas of the country have pyrite. I would like to acknowledge the fact that my colleague, Senator Mulherin, has raised the pyrite issue as it occurs in Mayo and Donegal. The problem of pyrite occurs in other places around the country and is not just confined to Dublin and the greater Dublin region. I am interested in hearing what the Minister of State has to say on the matter.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue. I will speak on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy English. I am substituting for him as he must attend the Dáil to answer oral parliamentary questions.
I wish to clarify that the Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provided the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme. However, the provisions of the Act only apply to dwellings affected by significant damage attributable to pyrite heave consequent on the presence of reactive pyrite in the sub-floor hardcore material and not to damage arising in other circumstances.
Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the building regulations rests with the designers, builders and owners of the buildings. Enforcement of the building regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities. They have extensive powers of inspection and investigation under the Acts. In general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, that is, the home owner, the builder, the developer and-or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme.
Section 13(5) of the Pyrite Resolution Act does provide that the pyrite remediation scheme may, subject to the approval of the Minister of State, Deputy English, be amended, replaced or revoked by the Pyrite Resolution Board. As matters currently stand, the position is that the scheme is based on the information that was available to the board at the time of its adoption in February 2014, having regard to the details set out in the report of the pyrite panel, dated July 2012, although the scheme was subsequently amended in February 2015 in the light of relevant information that emerged in the local authority areas of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin with regard to pyritic heave in a small number of housing developments, that is, one development in each of the two local authority areas.
Any proposal to amend the scheme is, in the first instance, a matter for the Pyrite Resolution Board and any such proposal would require detailed consideration of the evidence. The recommendations of the pyrite panel that informed the establishment of the pyrite remediation scheme were premised on a number of pertinent factors. The Minister of State, Deputy English, supports the view that similar factors would need to be examined by the Pyrite Resolution Board in advance of extending the scheme to other areas given the scheme is one of last resort.
At a minimum, to consider the appropriateness or otherwise of amending the scheme, I understand that the board would require a report addressing the following information: the extent and severity of damage to dwellings in the Limerick city and county council area caused by pyritic heave in the sub-floor hardcore; verification, if available, that the damage has been caused by pyrite; the background to the occurrence of the damage; details of any structural warranty policies for the dwellings; the history of the estate's construction, numbers, type of dwellings, etc; the source of the hardcore supplied to the dwellings in the estate; and any supporting geological assessments. In addition, the board may also make such further inquiries as it considers necessary to assist it in considering the matter. In this regard, it would be advisable for the residents to confirm the nature of the pyrite problems in the area, for example, to identify whether the problems stem from reactive pyrite in the sub-floor hardcore material that has given rise to pyritic heave and, consequently, significant pyritic damage.If that is the case, then it is open to the residents concerned to contact the Pyrite Resolution Board regarding the submission of a report, as I have suggested. Contact details for the board are available on its website, www.pyriteboard.ie.
I thank the Minister of State very much for his reply. We have been in contact with the Pyrite Resolution Board, but it does not seem to want to engage. It is very firm regarding the fact the scheme applies within Leinster and the greater Dublin area. Perhaps we should write to the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, as well. Perhaps the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, can bring the matter to the attention of his colleague. We have contacted the board but it just does not seem to engage if an issue arising relates to a location outside the area to which I refer. However, we will write to the board and forward a copy to the Minister of State, Deputy English.