The Housing Authority was asked to pay compensation to a couple it had sold a house to after they were required to address a number of illegalities the building was found to have.
The couple had bought their home in 1995, but found in 2016 that it had not been built in accordance with the plans approved by the Planning Area Permits Board, a forerunner to the Planning Authority. The couple’s maisonette was part of a block of eight, whose layout differed so completely from the approved plans that even the door positions did not tally.
In light of this, the couple asked the authority to act to regularise or sanction the building at its expense, taking up the matter with the Ombudsman after their request was denied.
Following the authority’s refusal to do so, they took the matter up with the Ombudsman. The authority argued that any irregularities would have been reflected in the price of the property and that in any case, any claim of payment of damages was time-barred.
Ultimately, the Ombudsman argued that the couple had the right to assume that the property was built in line with the approved plans, and as a public authority, the Housing Authority had a duty to ensure that the property it was transferring was fit for purpose.
However, he also considered that more than 20 years had passed since the couple bought their home, arguing that it was likely that the cost would have been much lower had they sought to regularise their home before. Additionally, the couple had not taken immediate steps to regularise or sanction the property.
Consequently, the Ombudsman recommended that the Housing Authority should refund half of the costs incurred by the couple. This compensation has since been paid as advised.