What is the mica scandal in Ireland?
The mica scandal is one of the most difficult situations for home owners to deal with and it has caused a lot of emotional trauma for homeowners throughout the country.
Muscovite mica is a natural mineral occurring in rocks which takes in moisture from the air. Concrete blocks containing mica are damaged over time and, when used in houses, can have a seriously negative impact on the safety and structure of houses. The damage can be seen in cracks appearing in walls and other signs that indicate structural weakness.
The problem emerged in the last few years when cracks were noticed by homeowners, and the issue has grown since. At first it affected homes mainly in the Northwest – Donegal and Mayo in particular – but issues have been reported in Sligo, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, so it’s a good bet that problems will be reported in more counties in the future.
While mica is a natural mineral, there are some regulations in place to address the use of concrete blocks affected. Statutory Instrument Number 288 of 1949 provides that concrete blocks used can’t contain any more that 1% of mica. In the houses affected in Ireland, upwards of 17% was found in the blocks in question.
How has the matter been addressed?
In June 2020 the Government set up a scheme called the Defective Block Scheme to look at the issue. That resulted in the creation of a redress scheme. It determined that homeowners should be afforded a settlement of 90% of the rebuild costs. The award would exclude the instalment of new windows and kitchens, any demolition works, the cost of rebuild, planning costs and architects’ fees. Essentially, this meant that homeowners would still bear the brunt of the costs and this differed from the situation with pyrite damage, something that occurred some years ago when the government awarded homeowners affected a settlement of 100% of the costs.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) provides cover for builders through the HomeBond Scheme. This provide insurance for structural damage and lasts for 10 years from the date of construction. When you buy a new house, your solicitor will be given a Certificate of membership in the HomeBond Scheme.
There are 3 stages to the Grant Scheme:
Stage 1 – Confirmation of eligibility
You apply to the local authority and provide an engineer’s report setting out details of the damage, and show proof that the property is your principal private residence.
Stage 2 – Grant approval
The local authority provides details of the amount of the grant that will be paid.
Stage 3 – Payment of grant
Once the works have been done, you provide confirmation that the works have been done and completed, together with certification of same.
The current provisions are not sufficient for homeowners however and there are ongoing negotiations with the Government to address a number of matters, including the fact that homeowners are first required to carry out a mica test, which can cost €5000, and they will still need to rent a house while the remedial works are being done. While homeowners are demanding more assistance in the upcoming budget, it remains to be seen whether the Government will address this is in any meaningful way.
There are still some opportunities for homeowners to pursue a legal remedy for damage caused by the presence of mica. The path taken will depend on who is determined to be at fault for the damage, and when the house was built.
If the mica scandal has highlighted one thing, it’s the importance of getting a survey carried out by an expert before signing contracts. You can read more about surveys here.
If you have any further questions about your rights when it comes to this issue, fill out the form below and we’ll get in touch.