Sandra and Peter Lewis are among hundreds of Northside couples trapped by the pyrite problem that has damaged their properties.
Speaking to Northside People, the couple described how they’ve had to put their lives on hold since the discovery of pyrite in their home, which they estimate will cost €45,000 to repair.
“We moved out of the apartment for the sake of our marriage, our sanity and the health of our son Adam,” explained Sandra (33).
“We realised we’d pyrite in 2005, about a year after we moved in because we had cracks in our shower tray and our tiles.
“We replaced the inner walls twice and spent a lot on the property cosmetically but the problem kept reappearing.
“In the end we couldn’t take it anymore and because there was damp we had to move out as my young son suffers from asthma.”
“We lived with my parents in Kildare for two years and it was only for them that we were able to manage.”
Sandra, who works for Bord Gais, said they have put everything on hold while they wait for the pyrite and compensation issue to be resolved.
The Lewis family are now renting their own accommodation in Kildare while continuing to pay the mortgage on their apartment.
Both Sandra and her husband Peter do not regret moving from the property, even though they still have to commute to Dublin each day for work.
“We felt guilty for not being able to provide our son with the stability of a home,” she stated.
“Trying for a second baby wouldn’t even be an option until we get ourselves sorted.
“You want to have the basics in place before you have a baby and at the most we have this massive financial burden of paying a mortgage and rent at the same time.
“I don’t know what we’d do if my partner or I lost our jobs.
“Yes it is costing us money not to live in our own home but we had to move for the sake of our sanity and our marriage.”
Sandra, who is secretary of the Pyrite Action Group, believes homeowners should have some recourse for buying a house with extensive faults.
“The situation is soul destroying, not least because we are in total negative equity,” she added. “A property in our development recently sold for €70,000.”
“A home is the single biggest thing you can buy but you don’t get a receipt and you can’t take it back if and when you realise that there are major structural issues with it.
“Homebond won’t pay out compensation because of the ongoing dispute with the quarries so we’re in limbo.”
Sandra added: “You can buy a carton of milk and take it back if it’s gone off but you’ve no comeback if it’s a house with a structural defect that you’ve bought. It really is a matter of buyer beware.”
Meanwhile, Northside residents and public representatives have criticised Homebond for their failure to appear before an Oireachtas Committee to discuss the ongoing problem.
The building insurers’ group came under fire last week for snubbing a committee hearing for the second time.
The company, which provides structural defect cover for new homes, was called before the Oireachtas Committee as part of its investigation into the cost of restoring the structural integrity of houses affected by pyrite.
A spokesperson for Homebond said they had made the committee aware they would not be attending prior to the hearing.
“It would be inappropriate to discuss this issue in a public forum at this stage,” the spokesperson told Northside People.
“We will review the request from the Oireachtas Committee once the Minister for the Environment’s Pyrite Panel has completed its work.”
Dublin North TD Alan Farrell (FG) was critical of Homebond’s refusal to appear before the committee.
“The decision to ignore the democratic mandate of the Oireachtas is an insult to the estimated 20,000 people who own pyrite-affected homes,” he stated.
Dublin North West TD Dessie Ellis (SF) described Homebond’s decision as a “snub”.
“It is an insult to the families facing massive cost and upheaval over the discovery of pyrite in their homes,” he said.