Tuesday 22 October 2019

Court to decide if residents can stay in 'death trap' flats during fire safety work

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Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

The High Court will next month hear applications from residents of three Dublin properties described as potential death traps, who are seeking to be allowed to remain living there while remedial works are carried out.

Three weeks ago the court granted Dublin City Council temporary injunctions requiring residents of 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place, in the north inner city, to immediately vacate the properties.

Inspections carried out by senior fire safety officials revealed the three properties, which are divided into flats and bedsits, were in very poor condition and if a fire started it would spread very quickly.

The risk to people living in the buildings is so serious that their continued use for residential purposes should be prohibited until several serious fire safety deficiencies are addressed, the council claims.

The majority of the residents are foreign nationals.

The council sought orders against the owners, Vincent and Catherine Donoghue, and Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton who was appointed as receiver over the three properties by AIB in October 2016.

Mr Donoghue previously told the court that he has had no control over the properties for almost three years.

At the High Court yesterday Mr Justice Michael Quinn was told by lawyers representing some of the residents affected that they wanted the court to vary the orders so they can stay in their homes.

Joe Jackson, barrister for a number of residents at 101 Seville Place, said some works had been done to the premises, such as fixing smoke detectors and fire alarms.

The building had been assessed by an expert engineer, and it was their case that the rest of the required fire safety works could be carried out without his clients having to vacate their flats, Mr Jackson said. The barrister said his clients had rights as tenants of the property and said while the council's motives in seeking the order to vacate the property were genuine it was inadvertently acting as a bailiff for the receiver and clearing the building.

Counsel said the orders rendered his clients homeless, and offers of alternative accommodation from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive were not acceptable.

However, Joe Jeffers BL, for the receiver, said his client did not accept claims that residents at 101 Seville Place had valid tenancies and said the receiver had not got rent from the properties since 2017.

The court heard solicitor Cahir O'Higgins was taking instructions from residents at 100 and 104, and required time before they could also seek to have the orders varied.

Conleth Bradley SC, for Dublin City Council, said the buildings should be vacated due to ongoing fire safety concerns.

Mr Justice Quinn said the hearing of the applications to vary the orders would take some time and adjourned the matter to a date in early October. The judge ruled that the temporary orders previously granted by the High Court are to remain in place.

Irish Independent

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