THE Government has been urged to introduce new legislation to provide legal protection for home-owners in unfinished ghost estates where the builder has gone bust.
The call was made this week by Michele Burke and William Buck, who are due to move into their new detached home in Ard na Deirge within the next week, eight years after paying a booking deposit.
The couple have been paying almost €1,400 on a mortgage and rent every month for the past number of years.
John Ryan Senior and his wife, Breda, along with their son, John Ryan Junior, who purchased a neighbouring dwelling, are also putting the finishing touches to their houses, as they prepare for the long-awaited move.
Ms Burke said there was no legal protection for people living in unfinished estates where the builder has gone bust. She urged all local authorities to engage in “active dialogue” with people in similar situations, like director of services, Ger Dollard did since their first meeting last year.
She stressed that funding should be prioritised to finish off basic services in ghost estates and proposed services should be put in first, before houses were built in estates.
“None of the buyers were protected. My bank was protected, it gets the house. Solicitors are protected and builders can walk away. There was no legal protection for buyers who had stage payments and that is why I never went to court. Our money went to the builder and wasn’t protected.
“We were left completely in limbo. People are starting to buy houses again and need to be careful.
“While the Mortgage Association is there for people who can’t pay their mortgage, I was willing to pay my mortgage. I just wanted to move into my house. We never wanted to live in a ghost estate,” she said.
John Ryan Senior, who is also delighted with the way the estate has been finished, claimed the local planning authority didn’t do its job eight years ago, as it didn’t call in the planning bond and didn’t have to wait for a new developer to take it over.
Director of services, Ger Dollard said the council is delighted that the longstanding issues relating to Ard na Deirge are now nearing a conclusion. “The council are very pleased that the householders can now finally take up occupation. The development is a quality development and every credit is due to the developer, Cherryfox Developments, for taking on a difficult task and managing it very successfully,” he said.
“For the council’s part, its input into finding a resolution to issues at Ard na Deirge is in line with its strong commitment to resolve difficult issues on many unfinished developments. The council are dealing with many difficult and complex situations right throughout County Clare and will continue to push hard to resolve these situations in the interest of householders on these developments,” Mr Dollard added.
Ms Burke believes they were the only people to get caught with stage payments, which means they drew down their mortgage to pay for the house, because no other person contacted them to outline a similar scenario over the last 18 months.
Looking back on their campaign to get the estate finished, Ms Burke admitted that, for years, they didn’t know where to turn and regretted they didn’t highlight their frustrating plight in the media years ago.
She recalled how staging the demonstration outside the estate last year focused the three home-owners and, once they met director of services, Ger Dollard, they never looked back, after the planning bond was drawn down.
However, she also acknowledged that, even if they had gone public sooner, there is no guarantee they would have got the same result, as the property market only started to recover recently and other builders may not have looked at the estate as positively as John Walsh.
“We are very excited to be able to finally move into a house in a bustling estate, which has been finished to a very high standard. We are looking forward to hanging pictures on the walls and not paying rent anymore, which will be a substantial saving.
“The new developer, John Walsh, has been true to his word and has a great work ethic. We haven’t looked back for the last six months. We are looking forward.
“It wasn’t just the protest. There was an element of luck that helped us get over the line. We were lucky to get the bond called in. It did cover a substantial amount of work and the estate was taken over by a very good builder,” she said.
“Up until we went public, we were very distressed and were at breaking point. I wasn’t surprised it took time to call in the bond and was just happy they were doing it. People can’t believe how happy we are and we just want to move on with our lives.
“We weren’t people who sought publicity, we just wanted what was rightfully ours. My house looks like a completely different house. The house and estate exceeds our expectations,” she said.
Ms Burke’s husband, William Buck, said it was very stressful for all three home-owners when they were left so long in limbo, until they started getting answers to their queries.
He said they were lucky that John Walsh became the new developer, as they could still be looking at their house through barbed-wire fences.