Defective Concrete Blocks Act
The cracking of external walls of dwellings in Donegal and Mayo due to the crumbling of concrete blockwork, came to light in 2013. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, responded with Regulations to provide for a grant scheme to provide support for affected homeowners. The implementation of the scheme became challenging however, with issues arising with governance, the adequacy of available grant funding and some aspects of its administration.
The purpose of the Act is to implement and give legislative underpinning to a series of measures to improve and enhance the scheme as agreed by Government on 30 November 2021, namely–
• an increase in the maximum grant cap
• additional grant assistance with accommodation, storage and immediate repairs costs
• the determination by the Housing Agency of appropriate remediation options and maximum grant amounts payable
• a second grant opportunity, where required
• a new damage threshold to help ensure the worst affected homes are o remediated first
• a revised application process which removes a financial hurdle under the prior scheme
• exempt development status for the ‘like for like’ demolition and rebuild of homes
• extension of the scheme beyond owner-occupied principal private residences
• the establishment of an independent appeals panel
• the extension, by Government Order, of the scheme to additional counties where needed
• the review as required of the overall grant cap and grant rates, and adjustment if necessary, by Government Order
• a review of the operation of the Act three years after commencement
• provision for Exchequer funding of local authority and Approved Housing Body owned social homes which are impacted.
Authority & Agencies
The Act provides for the designation of–
• a local authority to be a designated local authority for the purposes of the Act, and
• Donegal, Mayo, Clare and Limerick specifically as designated local authorities
The Housing Agency will have a role in testing dwellings, and making recommendations as to designations of administrative areas. Designations may be for either the whole or specific geographic parts of a local authority area for the purposes of the scheme. The Minister may prescribe the form, manner, standards and procedures of Housing Agency assessments as well as the form and manner of making recommendations (having regard to the IS 465:20181 standard).
The Act provides for advances to, and expenditure by, local authorities and the Housing Agency for the purposes of implementing their functions under the Act. It provides for the submission of budgets and reports of expenditure to the Minister.
The Act provides for the approval of grants for remediation works, alternative accommodation and storage cost and immediate repairs. Government Orders may increase or decrease the overall grant cap and the grants available
There are remediation options and the requirements for assessments of dwellings. The Minister may prescribe the–
• building condition assessment report
• remediation options grant aided under the scheme
• amount of grant payable in respect of remediation options
• cost per square metre of completing a prescribed remediation option.
1 I.S. 465:2018 includes the standardised protocol for determining whether a building has been damaged by concrete blocks containing certain excessive amounts of deleterious materials (such as mica). The standard can be downloaded from the National Standards Authority of Ireland’s website
Applications are to be made by homeowners for grant assistance. Completed application forms need to be accompanied by proofs, a building condition assessment report, a statutory declaration, statements, consent to inspection and testing, and other information as may be requested. The local authority carry out validation checking of the application, and will either validate the application and refer it to the Housing Agency or refuse the application.
There are provisions for local authority considerations, notices, reasons for referral or refusal and statements regarding appeal.There are time periods in which applications may be made.
The Housing Agency considers applications referred from the local authority, assess the level of damage, inspect (if necessary) the home and determine if a home the subject of an application has met the damage threshold for entry to the grant scheme. The details of the threshold and assessment to be carried out will be set out in regulations.
Assessment & Grant
The Agency may assess the damage, and if conditions are satisfied, approve–
• the appropriate remediation option (or combination of options), and
• the remediation option grant which may be paid.
There are provisions relating to remediation option grants including–
• some conditions, such as the need to submit a remedial works plan and other documents, and
• processes used by the local authority
There are conditions applicable to the payment of remediation option grants including claiming interim grant payments and requirements in respect of the final grant payment. The form and manner for making applications are set out in regulations, and guidelines may be made regarding payments.There are time limits for payment of remediation option grants.
There are certificates of remediation regarding completion of works. A letter of assurance attaches to a dwelling and confers an entitlement to apply for a second grant under the scheme in respect of that dwelling, in specific circumstances.
There is an application process in respect of grants to cover the cost of alternative accommodation, storage and immediate repairs. The Minister may prescribe the form and manner in which applications may be made, and the procedure for payment of grants.
There is an provision for a revised approval in respect of an approved remediation option which is other than demolition and rebuild after work has commenced where the technical evidence supports such a change. The Housing Agency determines the application and provision is made for the application process. The form and manner of applications are prescribed by the Minister.
There are conditions for a change of relevant owner in the event of death and inheritance and other circumstances. Regulations may be made regarding notices and accompanying matters.
There is an application process for the second grant in respect of a dwelling to which a letter of assurance, attaches. The second grant applies to dwellings which were initially remediated other than through full demolition and rebuild, but blockwork retained within the homes after the first remediation proved subsequently to be defective and damaged in accordance with IS 465:2018 and to which a letter of assurance attaches.
Certain Matters consequent on grant
The Act provides for refund of compensation, where claimants must refund grants received under this scheme to local authorities where they received monies otherwise than under this Act in respect of damage to dwellings caused by defective concrete blocks.
The Act provides for the recovery of grants under specific circumstances as listed. The Minister may prescribe the form and contents of notices, procedures, and the manner in which representations may be made to the local authorities in relation to their intention to make the determination.
The Act provides for the conferring of exempted development status on development consisting of the completion of an approved remediation option under the scheme, where such works are not inconsistent with, or materially different from, the appearance and character of the original building. The exemption covers both first and second applications under the provisions of this Act.
The Act provides for assignment and subrogation of claims, where the State will take over a legal right or claim related to defective concrete blocks which a relevant owner may have against any party.
Charging Orders re Landlord
The Act provides for the charging of dwellings (in favour of the local authority) with the full value of the grant paid in respect of rented dwellings. It also provides for annual 5% reductions in the charged amount (incremental releases) where the relevant owner continues to own and rent out the property under a tenancy registered with the Residential Tenancies Board.
There are events which trigger the charging order in favour of the local authority. In this case there is cessation of incremental releases.
Charging orders, are deemed to be mortgages for the purposes of Part 10 of the Land and Conveyancing Law reform Act, 2009, are registered as burdens on title deeds and are recoverable as simple contract debts.
There are arrangements for releasing charges, deeds of discharge and execution / registration costs arising with such releases.
Local Authority Owned Properties
The Minister may introduce a scheme of grant assistance, within designated local authority areas, for local authority and approved housing bodies owned social homes which have been damaged by defective concrete blocks and require remediation.
There is a 10 person Appeals Panel, and provides for appointments, tenure, pay, resignation, removal, qualification and administrative support.
There is an Appeals Board of 3 persons from the Appeals Panel to hear and determine individual appeals.
The Minister may prescribe further deleterious materials, or combinations thereof. There are standard provisions to protect persons in the performance of their functions under the Act.
There are guidelines to local authorities in the performance of their functions under this Act.
There is a review of the operation of the Act to commence not later than 3 years after the establishment day, with a Report to the Oireachtas thereafter.
There are offences and penalties for the furnishing of false information. There is provision for disqualification of applicants from the