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July 19, 2024
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Victoria Square apartments: Owner calls for change in law

Image caption,

Owners of the defective Victoria Square apartments in Belfast had their bid for compensation struck out on Wednesday

An owner of a defective Victoria Square apartment has called for Stormont to bring the law into line with England and Wales.

Owners of the Belfast apartments who had to leave the building in 2019 had their bid for compensation struck out.

In Northern Ireland such claims must be made within six years of a building being completed.

Trevor McCrory and his wife, who bought their apartment for retirement, said the “rug was pulled from under them”.

“We are out of pocket substantially and we hope that if we get MLAs and MPs behind our case they will stand up for us,” he told BBC’s Evening Extra programme.

Mr McCrory said he had continued paying the service charge to keep the building maintained and the rates.

He did try to get some form of rates exemption but was turned down.

Image caption,

Trevor McCrory is disappointed with the court’s decision

‘We bought a home’

Mr McCrory said he and other apartment owners brought the case in “the hope that the system would see the correct and moral way of going forward”.

However he added, due to a technicality in terms of the time statute they had been “let down”.

“We are down to a situation where we need the assembly to start backing us to have the law changed and brought into line retrospectively with England and Wales,” he said.

He said the apartment was not an investment but a home for retirement.

“Like anyone else coming to our age looking to retirement, our plan was to move into the apartment and enjoy some of the benefits that would have given us,” he told the programme.

“We hoped it would be low maintenance, at the centre of Belfast with good transport options – we didn’t buy like a developer – we bought a home.”

Who is responsible?

There had been some confusion over which Stormont department held responsibility for this issue, in light of calls by owners of the Victoria Square apartments for politicians to act.

But Minister for Communities Gordon Lyons confirmed his department would take on responsibility.

“I have spoken with [Daera] Minister Muir in relation to the Defective Premises Order and agreed the transfer of functions to my department, subject to executive and assembly approval.

“These are complex matters.

“We have agreed to meet again next week to further consider the process of policy development and consultation to update the legislation.”

How does the law differ in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland owners of defective properties have six years to claim compensation.

In England and Wales it is 30 years.

Image caption,

Andrew Muir said that he had requested the powers be transferred to the Department for Communities

Ulster Garden Villages, a charity which owns 54 of the 91 apartments in Victoria Square, and uses investments to provide funding for other charitable projects, said it was suffering losses of about £500,000 a year.

They said that money “would have been used for philanthropic purposes supporting charities across Northern Ireland at a time when, given the challenges of the past few years, that support has been needed more than ever.”

“We are hopeful that some good comes from this case and that legislative amendments can be secured that offer a legal remedy to a wider range of property owners in Northern Ireland who have experienced damage to their homes and suffered financial loss as a result of construction defects.” the charity added.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUP) Steve Aiken has said he is committed to amending legislation and “righting this very obvious wrong”.

He said: “In the assembly, it was made clear that legislation could be created swiftly.”

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