Homeowners from The Oaks, Lakepoint with Deputy Sorca Clarke, third from left, at the protest in front of Leinster House on Wednesday of last week. From left, Michael O’Reilly, Margaret O’Reilly, Deputy Clarke, Claire Ryan, Pamela O’Neill Waterhouse and Helen Albin.

32 owners can’t get insurance for their Lakepoint homes

A Mullingar mother who has been unable to get her apartment insured for more than a decade due to fire safety issues is part of a new national campaign calling for 100 per cent redress for people who bought defective properties during the Celtic Tiger.

Claire Ryan bought her apartment in The Oaks, Lakepoint, in 2006. In 2010, she was informed that her home was uninsurable after a range of fire safety and other building defects were identified.

Ms Ryan is one of 32 owners in The Oaks who are unable to get insurance for their apartments, duplexes and townhouses for the last 12 years due to fire safety and other defects. Their efforts to get the developer Castlepride to carry out the remedial works needed to make their homes compliant with building regulations suffered a blow when the firm went into liquidation in 2019. It has been estimated that the work will cost around €3m or €100,000 per unit.

Ms Ryan moved out of her apartment three years ago. She says that she “couldn’t cope” living there with her young daughter. She is now paying rent on her new accommodation, as well as her mortgage.

The strain of the last 12 years has taken its toll on her, she says.

“The reason I moved out was because of my mental health. I couldn’t cope living there any more.

“Most of us bought those apartments as a five-year plan. I was only 27 when I bought it. I was going to live there for five years and move on to my family home, hopefully. I still haven’t been able to do that and I’m in my mid-40s now. It’s the impact it has taken on our lives.”

Ms Ryan and other homeowners from The Oaks travelled to Dublin last Wednesday for a protest outside Leinster House organised by The Construction Defects Alliance, which is calling for a full redress scheme for the estimated 100,000 property owners around the country who purchased defective apartments and houses between 1991 and 2013.

Minister of Housing Daragh O’Brien has set up a working group to look at solutions and has offered to fund short-term measures, such as enhanced alarm systems.

On Tuesday, Sinn Féin tabled a Dáil Motion calling for a full redress scheme for owners who purchased defective Celtic Tiger properties.

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Sorca Clarke commended Ms Ryan and the other homeowners from The Oaks for “their perseverance, doggedness and determination to see this through”.

“In 2010, the 32 homes had their insurance cancelled due to identified fire and construction defects. A recent minor but problematic flood damaged walls, floors and furniture and none of it was insured. I am told that The Oaks was inspected by the local authority and two notices were served on the developer, followed by a court case in 2010.

“The judge ruled that the matter was too serious for the District Court. The local authority said it would take six weeks to prepare a case and requested the case be struck out, and it was, but the situation remained. The residents thought that following a fire in the development in early 2021, the local authority would finally act definitively, but that was not to be and the situation remains.

“The residents of The Oaks have been extremely proactive in attempting to resolve this issue but they have effectively been stonewalled. They do not have a wish-list of outlandish requirements. They want their homes to be safe, to be compliant, to be insurable and to be saleable.

“As one resident said to me this afternoon: ‘I am a mother of three, one of whom is autistic. We bought a one-bedroom apartment in 2007. In 2009 we received news about the fire safety issues. We have been renting and paying a mortgage since 2009. We have moved at least 10 times. With the rising cost of living, we may have no other option but to move back into that deathtrap. This is a noose around our neck that keeps on tightening.’

“That light-touch regulation introduced by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, and widespread shoddy practice by the building industry during the Celtic tiger, led to these building defects. This government and previous governments have failed to deal with that legacy and the practices they facilitated, yet it is residents like those in The Oaks and those in the Visitors Gallery this evening who are left to face the full impact of the failures of others. That is shameful.”