More Fire Safety evacuations, European Committee of Social Rights court case & uninhabitable rented housing | NEWS

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04 June 2015

The 4 for 4: News round-up

Some recent press articles highlight the multitude of problems faced by Building Control Sections in Local Authorities across the state. Local Authority Building Control sections are hugely under-resources and have fewer than 70 officers nationwide to police the entire construction materials sector along with target rates for on-site inspections 0f 12-15% for all buildings commenced nationwide. With current construction industry output forecast at €10Bn these figures are would appear to be unrealistic. There are no plans at present to increase available staff and resources to Local Authority Building Control sections under the current ministerial BC(A)R SI.9 review.

The following 4 articles relate to recent problems facing Dublin City Council and have similarities to recent building failures in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and elsewhere in the country. Articles to follow with extracts- click on title for full articles:

“Dublin City Council applied to have flats at 3 Kelly’s Row, Dublin 1, evacuated.

Fire brigade officers dealt with three incidents at the building since October 2014 and a fire safety notice was put in place last March prohibiting the use of the premises for residential accommodation, until a number of measures were undertaken…

Mr Justice Kearns said he was prohibiting the use of the premises to safeguard the health and safety of the residents, which was the court’s “primary concern.”

The judge said he did not want another Priory Hall on his hands…

He considered the risk to persons in the event of a fire was “so serious” that use of the building should be immediately prohibited until measures outlined in the fire safety notice were taken “to reduce the risk to a reasonable level”.

  • This Journal article “Ireland is facing a human rights case over the awful state of social housing here 14th May 2015, notes a recent landmark case brought by 20 Local Authority Housing estates against the Irish State regarding the dire conditions of their housing. The tenants of the houses in question were assisted in lodging the complaint by several agencies including the Housing Law department of NUIG and Community Action Network (CAN), together with the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH). The complaint alleges that Irish law and policy on Local Authority housing breaches tenant rights under the European Social Charter and has been ruled admissible by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) in Strasbourg. Quote:

“RESIDENTS OF 20 Local Authority housing estates around Ireland have had complaint they’ve taken against the Irish State regarding the dire conditions of their housing ruled admissible by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) in Strasbourg…

The complaint has been five years in the making and alleges that Irish law and policy on Local Authority housing breaches tenant rights under the European Social Charter.  It was first lodged with Strasbourg in July 2014…

Specific issues raised include:

  • Substandard housing conditions both internally and externally
  • Failure of Local Authorities to accept structural deficiencies in housing
  • Health impacts on children, families, and vulnerable people
  • No national survey of housing conditions for over a decade

The 20 estates include Balgaddy, Dolphin House, and Ballymun in Dublin and Moyross in Limerick.

Common housing issues reported include living with dampness, mould, sewerage, poor maintenance and pyrite…

Dolphin House in Dublin’s south inner city is a strong example of regeneration gone wrong.  Phase one of the process has been delayed several times and is now more than two years behind schedule.

TheJournal.ie has requested comment from the Department of the Environment.

Although the decision by the ECSR is not legally binding a continued breach of the Social Charter could see Ireland facing a resolution from the ECSR’s council of ministers.  No EU member state has ever ignored such a resolution.

Ireland has until May 28 to respond to the ECSR’s decision.”

“Dublin City Council found that of the 3427 ‘dwellings’ it inspected, only 924 passed the “regulatory requirements” needed to allow the property to be rented…

A total of 7,274 inspections were carried out on 3,427 homes in 2014, as part of two programmes to ensure that rented accommodation in Dublin City meets the minimum living standards laid down in the 2008 and 2009 ‘Standards for Rented Houses’ regulations…

These acts cover structural condition, sanitary, heating facilities, food preparation areas, storage and laundry, ventilation, lighting, fire safety, refuse facilities, and electricity and gas.

Among the breaches found were mould growing on ceilings and walls, exposed live wires and/or sockets not properly secured, severe damp, rotten wood, missing smoke alarms, and failure to provide a heating unit in each room.

A number of properties failed inspection because they did not provided emergency lighting in common areas, or allowed tenants access to a washing machine and a clothes-dryer, if their rented unit lacks a private garden or yard.”

“Almost 1,500 complaints of damp and mould were made to Dublin City Council in the past year by tenants of its flats and houses.

In almost all cases – 97 per cent – the council said the problem was due to condensation which was “solely the responsibility of the tenant” and not leaks or structural problems with the building…

Tenants are offered advice on how to deal with the problem. They should use an extractor fan when cooking, keep the kitchen door closed, open windows after a shower or a bath, ventilate the flat by opening windows for a short period in the morning, especially on dry windy days, not block the ventilators, and, spray the affected areas with a propriety mould remover or a diluted bleach product.

“The generation of water vapour which leads to condensation and in some cases mould growth is not due to the way the building is constructed but to the way the building is used,” the council said.

People Before Profit Alliance councillor Bríd Smith said this “bog standard answer” was not acceptable, given the extent of mould damage in some flat complexes.

Ireland has been cited in a complaint against the State by the International Federation for Human Rights to the Council of Europe, in relation to sub-standard living conditions of local authority tenants. Mould and damp in flats is central to the complaint.”

Other posts of Interest:

Ireland is facing a human rights case over the awful state of social housing here | Journal

Building regulations make Dodge City look good | Irish Examiner

“These houses were rubbish” | Lobbying in the Construction Industry – Part 2

Peter McVerry says he’d be embarrassed if he was Alan Kelly | Journal

BC(A)R SI.9 Submission Series No 3: The Legal Environment and Consumer Protection | Deirdre Ní Fhloinn

Radical plan to exempt new homes from building rules | Independent

Questions asked about Minister Kelly’s Social Housing Strategy | Irish Times

Independent inspection is essential – Flawed building regulations | Irish Examiner

Self-certification ‘fatally flawed’ and needs ‘drastic overhaul’ | Engineers Journal

1 thought on “More Fire Safety evacuations, European Committee of Social Rights court case & uninhabitable rented housing | NEWS

  1. Michael O'Neill MRIAI

    “The generation of water vapour which leads to condensation and in some cases mould growth is not due to the way the building is constructed but to the way the building is used,” the council said.

    = = = =

    This is nonsense.

    There should be no set of conditions giving rise to mould in the building if its properly specified and used as intended. The building should be FIT FOR USE! I am referring to new buildings build since June 1 1992 and not historical properties.

    Cold bridges, inadequate insulation and missing insulation are the usual causes of condensation. Surfaces kept above the dewpoint do not allow condensation to occur. Fans extract water vapour-laden air and reduce humidity to levels that fall within the parameters of the building envelope.

    All the Councils suggested measures to deal with mould including venting etc don’t matter where a cold bridge exists.

    If a cold bridge exists it is likely to be ENTIRELY due to the way a building is constructed except where it has been damaged and then maintenance plays its part. This applies to

    1. The use of internal insulation.

    2. The lack of insulation at ope returns – windows, doors,

    3. Poor detailing in Cavity Walls allowing looping and venting.

    4. Uninsulated ventilated duct walls bounding habitable spaces.

    5. Metal windows with no thermal breaks and internal/external weep holes.

    All of these issues arise prima facie and all can be exacerbated by poor ventilation and lack of heating.

    A ventilated space will lower the relative humidity assuming the ambient external humidity is less than the room humidity.

    Heating a surface above dew point will prevent any condensation

    Neither of these measures are viable in Ireland in the depths of winter together with the high cost of fuel.

    Therefore it is ESSENTIAL that houses are properly detailed to avoid cold bridges and extensive northern exposure.

    Reply

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