Aiken calls for Northern Ireland legislation change to help protect homeowners from defective buildings

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Aiken calls for Northern Ireland legislation change to help protect homeowners from defective buildings

In 2019, residents of the Belfast city centre apartment blocks at Victoria Square were forced out of their homes with no compensation after structural defects were discovered. In a High Court ruling yesterday, the 13th of March 2024, it was found that based on the timings the structural defects were discovered, it was too late for residents to claim.

Finance spokesperson, Steve Aiken OBE MLA said, “Since 2019, homeowners of apartments in Victoria Square will have been left without answers around their properties. Some still paying their mortgages, many still paying overhead bills including rates and after yesterday’s court ruling, it will have been a devastating and angry day for all those homeowners. We are very aware of the issue and are committed to seeing the legislation amended.

“Currently, the Northern Ireland legislation does not offer homeowners the same basic protections against dangerous buildings that residents in the rest of our nation can avail of. After the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the UK Government introduced the Defect Premises Act 2022, which provided new limitation periods for claims, from 6 years to 30 years for retrospective claims. But unfortunately, the law does not extend to Northern Ireland and residents here are still limited to only 6 years to make a claim under the Defective Premises (NI) Order 1975 (DPO). The Northern Ireland Finance Committee has raised these issues since it took evidence of the impact of the Grenfell fire tragedy on NI building regulations. However, the collapse of the Assembly in 2022 meant that the legislation change could not be addressed.

“Over the past couple of weeks, a number of Departments and Assembly Committees have been looking into this issue, and it currently falls within the Environment section of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. On Monday, in the Assembly, it was made clear that legislation could be created swiftly. It has already been agreed that there will be cross-departmental support and action from DAERA, Communities and Finance at looking to amend the current legislation and hope to bring us in line with the 2022 UK legislation, righting this very obvious wrong.”