Priory Hall apartments: What went wrong and what can we learn from this?

Latrade

Frequent Poster
Messages
579
And then people bizarrely complain when things go wrong, pleading 'no-one told me'. That is representative of general consumer inertia - enthralled by what someone else decides is acceptable- which I find disconcerting as big business are well aware of it.
I think there's a slight difference in buying a house for most people. In all other consumer activities it is on you and you alone to perform any reasonable checks to be confident it is a reasonable sale. Caveat Emptor and all that.

However, with purchasing a house you have to go through a solicitor and they perform the searches and checks for you. It's not an excuse as, like you, I had asked for specific confirmation on certain issues, but only issues and processes I was aware of.

The entire process isn't clouded in mystery as such, but it isn't as simple as sitting down and reading the small print. For starters, you aren't given the small print unless you specifically ask for it (even then it's only the specific document you ask for) and second you are obliged to pay someone to check all the small print for you anyway.

As such it's natural and reasonable to defer to the judgement and knowledge of an individual you are obliged to employ. If it isn't their duty or job to analyse the documents to that extent (i.e. they just collate and make sure they're there) then:

a) this should be made clear when engaging the solicitor.
b) the fees for simply collating and not analysing a set of documents should not be so high.

I would agree that in all other consumer activities, there is plenty of information and advice available to make reasoned judgements on purchases. But house buying is probably one area where there is a lack of sufficient information or access to information because it is all through a middle man.

There are more consumer rights and information sources for buying a television than there is on the one biggest monetary and personal purchase you will make in your life.

Whether it's this, the pyrite issue or any other problem, it just seems that there's infinite recourse for a lemon of a television, but when it's your home and when you've had several individuals involved in a process outside of your control and/or knowledge you're just left high and dry.
 

thedaras

Frequent Poster
Messages
813
Whether it's this, the pyrite issue or any other problem, it just seems that there's infinite recourse for a lemon of a television, but when it's your home and when you've had several individuals involved in a process outside of your control and/or knowledge you're just left high and dry.
I agree , there needs to be a clear consumer rights charter when buying a house..
An example would be the recent revelation that a visual inspection was the only thing required by the professionals involved.I don't think many people were made aware of this.

The self regulation is also news to a lot of people.

And even if they are aware ,how many people are in a position/have the money, to have a full inspection done,for example;
I know someone who purchased a house with a septic tank,they had the usual house survey done and the were given a cert of compliance,however the septic tank caused massive problems.

When they ask the guy who signed the cert of compliance to stand over it, he said it was a visual inspection only,and there was no other way to check a septic tank without doing extensive work.

I doubt many people would do that,so we are in some ways relying on the seller to tell the truth,perhaps then the onus should be on the seller to have a cert of full( not just visual ) compliance before the house is sold,that way every buyer is assured that the house is in correct/proper compliance.

However the real fault in my opinion is that in 1990,(another hair brained Fianna fail idea) ,self regulation was brought in,this was a recipe for disaster.
 

T McGibney

Frequent Poster
Messages
3,555
I know someone who purchased a house with a septic tank,they had the usual house survey done and the were given a cert of compliance,however the septic tank caused massive problems.

When they ask the guy who signed the cert of compliance to stand over it, he said it was a visual inspection only,and there was no other way to check a septic tank without doing extensive work.
What did you expect him to do? Get in to it himself? Dig up the entire septic tank system? Flush a small animal down a toilet and wait for him to emerge in the percolation area?

While we need improvements to building certification procedures, we also need a dose of realism.
 

thedaras

Frequent Poster
Messages
813
What did you expect him to do? Get in to it himself? Dig up the entire septic tank system?

While we need improvements to building certification procedures, we also need a dose of realism.
Whoa, Calm down..
The point I was making is that the couple thought that when a compliance cert was given,that things were in fact compliant..it became obvious pretty quickly that this is not the case,that most of these certs are in fact visual only.

The fact that inspections are visual only is not being brought to the notice of people who may have no idea how a house should be built or in what way it should comply,and if they get a cert of compliance they believe it does comply.
And why would they think anything else,they have done what they can ,with their limited experience.The fact is that people are NOT aware what needs to be checked,and this is where consumers need to be protected from unscrupulous sellers.

And once again as I've posted ,this is what needs to change..The onus should be on the seller to make sure everything is compliant and not just visually.

I wonder how many of those who give compliance certs actually say to their client," you do know,that I can only certify what I can see and that to fully investigate requires extensive work,that the visual inspection means I cannot tell if the septic tank will collapse,it means I have no idea if the insulation is correct ,I have no idea if the fire protection is safe,the electrics etc.

Fact is,as has been seen at Priory Hall and many others,people rely on these certs and the fact that the certs are really not sufficient is not being brought to their attention..
 

T McGibney

Frequent Poster
Messages
3,555
The onus should be on the seller to make sure everything is compliant and not just visually.
But how do you expect a seller to be in a position to confirm this, if its unfeasible for a professional to do so?

If you sell me your house, do you think it is reasonable for you to have to indemnify me against problems afterwards in the septic tank and elsewhere? How is the average householder going to finance this potentially significant contingent liability?
 

Ceist Beag

Frequent Poster
Messages
1,121
Isn't it absolutely crazy that a signature on a piece of paper saying "Ah yeah sure it looks grand from where I stand" can be regarded as a certificate of compliance!
 

Latrade

Frequent Poster
Messages
579
But how do you expect a seller to be in a position to confirm this, if its unfeasible for a professional to do so?

If you sell me your house, do you think it is reasonable for you to have to indemnify me against problems afterwards in the septic tank and elsewhere? How is the average householder going to finance this potentially significant contingent liability?
I don't want to speak for thedaras, but what I got from the post was that it wasn't clear to people what the limitiations of many of these certificates are.

There are clear limitations to inspecting a house and what can actually be done in any reasonable survey. However, this and other essential documentation in a house purchase is shrouded in a lack of clarity. Why call it a certificate of conformity if it can't actually confirm that?

For example, in order to assign a certificate of conformity for CE marking, you can't just do a visual inspection and say it seems ok.

In order to certify for licencing for medical boards across the world, pharmachem can't just say it seems ok.

If I were to sell a corporate governance audit and just say it involves a quick walkaround, no inspection, no testing, and you get a certificate of compliance based that doesn't actually certify compliance, I'd be laughed at.

Yes, you get what you pay for, but given that there is a huge lack of understanding and knowledge around the process and a lack of involvement in the process, surely, on the biggest purchase of an individual's life, there has to be a better system and a better information system.

Again, I have more protection based on buying a sandwich from Tescos than I do a house.
 

thedaras

Frequent Poster
Messages
813
Leper has summed it up very well.thanks.
If I buy a product for 20 euro, I expect it to be in perfect condition.If it isnt I have numerous consumer protections.I pay for a perfect product not an imperfect one,and thats what I expect.

However if I pay 500 thousand euro for a house,the same logic doesnt apply.
And that is the basis of my argument.

There should be an onus on the seller to ensure the product they are selling (ie a house)is in the condition it is advertised as, and to ensure they are not hiding faults..

To take that further,if no one can certify that a product is not perfect or in the condition that the seller says it is, then it should be sold as such and brought to the attention of the buyer.

At the very least the buyer then has a choice to proceed with the purchase or not.
 
Last edited:

dereko1969

Frequent Poster
Messages
2,627
Whoa, Calm down..
The point I was making is that the couple thought that when a compliance cert was given,that things were in fact compliant..it became obvious pretty quickly that this is not the case,that most of these certs are in fact visual only.

The fact that inspections are visual only is not being brought to the notice of people who may have no idea how a house should be built or in what way it should comply,and if they get a cert of compliance they believe it does comply.
And why would they think anything else,they have done what they can ,with their limited experience.The fact is that people are NOT aware what needs to be checked,and this is where consumers need to be protected from unscrupulous sellers.

And once again as I've posted ,this is what needs to change..The onus should be on the seller to make sure everything is compliant and not just visually.

I wonder how many of those who give compliance certs actually say to their client," you do know,that I can only certify what I can see and that to fully investigate requires extensive work,that the visual inspection means I cannot tell if the septic tank will collapse,it means I have no idea if the insulation is correct ,I have no idea if the fire protection is safe,the electrics etc.

Fact is,as has been seen at Priory Hall and many others,people rely on these certs and the fact that the certs are really not sufficient is not being brought to their attention..
I know my Engineers report on my house had in big block letters - this is based on a visual examination only - i'm trying to figure out what kind of examination you think would work completely? You'd have your house half dug up with samples of concrete/wood, I can't imagine people going for that.
 

T McGibney

Frequent Poster
Messages
3,555
Leper has summed it up very well.thanks.
If I buy a product for 20 euro, I expect it to be in perfect condition.If it isnt I have numerous consumer protections.I pay for a perfect product not an imperfect one,and thats what I expect.

However if I pay 500 thousand euro for a house,the same logic doesnt apply.
And that is the basis of my argument.

There should be an onus on the seller to ensure the product they are selling (ie a house)is in the condition it is advertised as, and to ensure they are not hiding faults..

To take that further,if no one can certify that a product is not perfect or in the condition that the seller says it is, then it should be sold as such and brought to the attention of the buyer.

At the very least the buyer then has a choice to proceed with the purchase or not.
To repeat my question so, in the context of a house sale, how is the average householder going to finance this potentially significant contingent liability?
 

thedaras

Frequent Poster
Messages
813
dereko1969;

Ask most people what they believe a complience cert to be and you can be assured most will believe that it means ,things that should comply do comply.

Perhaps there is a need for certifaction that is a true reflection of things,rather than a somewhat cloudy one.

There are many countries where certification must be done in stages.

If a visual inspection is all that is required then it is not worth the paper it is written on. What is the point of it?
 

thedaras

Frequent Poster
Messages
813
To repeat my question so, in the context of a house sale, how is the average householder going to finance this potentially significant contingent liability?
Those who are selling a very expensive product should by law have to tell of problems they are having with the house.

I suggest that if the seller cannot stand over the safety of their product, then it should be clearly stated.

Something like this;"This house was built in 1997, although it has a compliance cert it really may not comply as it was a visual inspection only.
To be absolutely assured of your safety ,you must satisfy yourself as to the safety of the building.".

That way the buyer is aware of what he needs to do,and if he chooses to proceed then there is no come back.

However it may be a selling point for the seller to have a cert which can show the foundations,electrics etc are in compliance not pretend compliance.
This obviously wont be possible for houses build in the past,but it could be the way to go in the future.
 

T McGibney

Frequent Poster
Messages
3,555
Disclaimers are hardly the answer. dereko1969 has already pointed out that engineers reports already have disclaimers.

You said earlier that "The onus should be on the seller to make sure everything is compliant" but you still haven't demonstrated

- how it can be feasible for householders to prove this, when its not feasible for professionals to do so.

- how can the average householder be expected to finance the potentially significant contingent liability attaching to the risk of non compliance.
 

thedaras

Frequent Poster
Messages
813
Disclaimers are hardly the answer. dereko1969 has already pointed out that engineers reports already have disclaimers.

You said earlier that "The onus should be on the seller to make sure everything is compliant" but you still haven't demonstrated

- how it can be feasible for householders to prove this, when its not feasible for professionals to do so.

- how can the average householder be expected to finance the potentially significant contingent liability attaching to the risk of non compliance.
How can the buyer be expected to finance the potentially significant contingent liability attaching to the risk of non compliance?

You seem to be saying that those who sell a very expensive product should have no onus on them to protect those who are buying?

It is not my job and nor am I qualified to know how to proceed with the implementation of same,I would suggest you take a look at my last post to see how I suggest an idea of things should be in all future builds.
 

Bronte

Frequent Poster
Messages
13,248
This issue is very serious indeed. A matter of life or death. So a summary of who does what might be helpful.

City councils

Their job is to ensure that buildings are built in compliance with Fire safety rules. This they do by accepting a self certification coming from an architect hired by the builder. From a legal stand point they are covered on their duties by accepting and not questioning the self certification. Is this correct?

In addition they do spot checks on about 10% of properties.

The current case only came to light because the residents complained. Is this the only complaint of it's kind with DCC, it now appears that this developer/builder has a certain reputation, as a matter of urgency why has DCC not sent in their fire officer/survery/engineer to inspect apartment blocks in particular.

Architect

He signs a visual cert based on the documents he receives from sub contractors and the developers wherein they state the building complies with the building regulations/fire rules.

Does he have any liablity if it later turns out that in fact the property has not been built with fire regulations. What does his professional indemnity insurance cover him for in this situation.

As he is hired by the builder, what duty has he to the ultimate purchaser? As he is paid by the developer, that is not a good enough distance between them. Too open to all sorts of abuses.

Sub contractors

Are they liable for incorrectly stating that something has been done when clearly it has not. Are they a mark, probably not as they have long since ceased trading and they are in Oz.

Developer

Are they liable for incorrectly stating that something has been done when clearly it has not. Are they a mark, probably not as they have long since ceased trading and they are in Oz or Nama, or both.

Architects professional body

Did they know, did they discuss that the certificates were worthless. If they did discuss and if they knew that properties were not being built correctly did they bring it to the attention of city councils.

Solicitors

Did they know that certificates were worthless. What did the Law society say in their guidelines on these certificates. Banks made it a requirement for conveyancing that these certs were included?

Did solicitors read the certs and did anyone question or realise that they are worthless pieces of paper?

Whose responsibility is it to read the certificates and to decide if they are correct and valid and can be held up in a court of law to tie liability to someone if what they state is incorrect. In the particular case to hand the certificates themselves seem to be valid but have no legal standing as they are worthless.

Building regulations

Who decided on the building regulations since the 1990's and who agreed to self regulation. Presumable it was a fudge between architects/city planners and government?

Dublin Fire brigade

What experience have they had of fires in new appartments. Did they come to realise that some/many were not built in accordance with fire safety and did they notify the city council

Purchaser

Here I'm trying to think what I would have done and in all honesty, I would probably have read the fire certificate, but then again maybe not. It might be something that was required by the bank for the conveyance to be done by the solicitor and gets sent directly via one solicitor to another. It's different for engineeers reports, those I've always read carefully.

Is it right to assume that purchasers would think that a building was built in accordance with regulations and fire safety if solicitor said everything was ok for the sale.

How would a consumer be competent enough to know if a certificate was correct, there would be no way an ordinary consumer would know about firewalls and would have relied on city planners/enforcers/builders and architects.

Engineer's report

When you purchase you get an engineer's report, but normally they is a disclaimer about it being a visual inspection. Do they have any role to play in relation to a building complying with building regulations and fire regulations.

The Judge (name?)

Well done the judge. He's a class act. No dithering or pussy footing around for him. Just orders and follow through and action.

Nobody at fault

Which is where we seem to be at, though the judge is making the builder/developer pay and if not him DCC.

There should be a clear chain in the purchase of a house where someone is liable at each step. How hard is that?
 

Complainer

Frequent Poster
Messages
4,951
^^^ Don't forget the role of the solicitor - Why did they accept a visual inspection cert on behalf of the buyer?
 

Bronte

Frequent Poster
Messages
13,248
^^^ Don't forget the role of the solicitor - Why did they accept a visual inspection cert on behalf of the buyer?
Just give me a few more minutes I'm still composing the post. But any ideas are welcome. This topic has made me very cross indeed.

I've finished for now. I have to read this thread again as I don't have time now and also need to think about it over the weekend.
 

Superman

Frequent Poster
Messages
595
Architect

He signs a visual cert based on the documents he receives from sub contractors and the developers wherein they state the building complies with the building regulations/fire rules.

Does he have any liablity if it later turns out that in fact the property has not been built with fire regulations. What does his professional indemnity insurance cover him for in this situation.
He confirms that the visible signs of the building conform with that required and specified conditions as set out in the Fire Safety Cert., drawings and specification.

That means the Fire Alarm works (or appears to work - depending on how much testing is done), the correct number and type of detector heads are installed in the correct locations, Fire extinguishers are present, correct and maintained, Fire doors are appropriately located and in working order, doors have Fire Reg compliant locks and closing mechanisms, corridors and enclosures are correctly located - as indicated on the drawings, doors are the correct widths and open in the correct directions, escape signs and equipment is installed as indicated, fire glazing and fire shutters are located as indicated, minimum and maximum dimensions are correct, all relevant signs are in place etc. etc.
Note that the Opinion on Compliance with B. Regs. covers not only this, but all other parts - i.e. part A and parts C-M.

That is to say, it does involve a lot of work to even do a visual inspection.

If it turns out that the visual inspection was carried out negligently (e.g. there is something he sees which would put a competent professional on notice that there is a problem somewhere), then he will be liable for that.
He is not liable if the non-compliance could not be reasonably detected on a visual inspection.
His insurance would cover negligence.
 

Bronte

Frequent Poster
Messages
13,248
Superman, I've not had a chance to go into what you've said yet.

AAMers in general. About 2 to 3 years ago we were having a debate on Homebond. Nothing to do with Pyrite (I don't think) but it came up and there was a debate with myself and MF1 and my conclusion was that Homebond was useless. How can I easily search for that. We have too many posts for me to check that way. And I'm useless at searching/technology etc.

Seems like a good time to do a key post on what potential purchasers should watch out. And no BB I do not want to do it but will contribute. Maybe it already exists.

And why on earth is this in letting off steam. It's a very serious topic, in addtion there may be residents who are not on AAM who might want to give their input.
 

Superman

Frequent Poster
Messages
595
City Councils: Their job is to ensure that buildings are built in compliance with Fire safety rules. This they do by accepting a self certification coming from an architect hired by the builder. From a legal stand point they are covered on their duties by accepting and not questioning the self certification. Is this correct?
No. They do not have to ensure that the building is built in accordance with Fire Safety Rules. They are to ensure the building is designed in accordance with the rules, and they have a power to inspect. It is a rather bare bones approach brought about by a government looking to cut costs and push responsibility onto the private sector.

As he is hired by the builder, what duty has he to the ultimate purchaser? As he is paid by the developer, that is not a good enough distance between them. Too open to all sorts of abuses.
He would be covered by the law of negligent misstatement with regard to third parties.

Sub contractors

Are they liable for incorrectly stating that something has been done when clearly it has not. Are they a mark, probably not as they have long since ceased trading and they are in Oz.
Yes.

Developer

Are they liable for incorrectly stating that something has been done when clearly it has not. Are they a mark, probably not as they have long since ceased trading and they are in Oz or Nama, or both.
If the developer states that the building is built in accordance with B. Regs., he is liable. In any case, Builders generally have to build in accordance with B. Regs.
 
Top