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Victoria Square Apartment Owners Case Dismissed by High Court

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The owners of the Victoria Square apartments have been left extremely disappointed that their cases for compensation for losses arising from structural defects and loss of value to their Apartments have been dismissed.

The judgment means that, unfortunately, they do not have the opportunity to see whether the Legislature in Northern Ireland will step up to afford them the same level of protection against defective home building which victims enjoy in England and Wales.

The structural defects in the Victoria Square Apartments are so extensive and significant that the owners of the properties have been unable to occupy their homes since they were discovered in 2019. Apartment owners have had to continue paying property rates, building insurance, service charge for ongoing maintenance costs and of course rising mortgage payments despite not having access to their properties.

Nonetheless, the builders of those apartments, Farrans and Gilbert Ash, together with architects and others involved in the build deny liability for the defects, and have managed to have the claims dismissed, primarily on the basis that by the time the defects were discovered it was too late for the residents to bring a claim in respect of them.

In issuing judgment today Mr. Justice Huddleston expressed sympathy for the pain and human tragedy experienced by the owners in losing their homes but said that it was obliged to apply the law as it currently stood and therefore found for the contractors and others in their argument regarding timing. The Court, when responding to submissions made on behalf of the owners also suggested that it might be possible for a claim to be brought by the Management Company who manage the development, or even now by the owners if suitable legislation was brought in by the Northern Ireland legislature – as it has been in England and Wales.

James Turner of O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors said Owners are understandably upset that they have not been afforded the same level of statutory protection as their counterparts in England and Wales. The solicitor is calling for cross–party support to enable Northern Ireland to catch up with other regions of the UK and help to give owners and residents the same level of protection with defective buildings.

Commenting he said, “The owners of Victoria Square which include a charity and more than 30 individuals are completely blameless victims in this failure to address the problems and are now victims twice over as a result of the failure of the Legislature to act quickly to give home owners in Northern Ireland the same basic protection against dangerous buildings as homeowners enjoy in England and Wales. In those regions, the government has moved to protect owners and residents by extending the time they have available to get those responsible for building defects and their insurers to put things right. The Victoria Square apartment owners will now take time to consider the High Court judgment and consult with all relevant parties to assess their options going forward.”

The owners are appealing to the Legislature to move quickly to correct this injustice.

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