Friday 20 September 2019

Distressed residents are warned they must leave 'death-trap' buildings

Devastated: Linonice Serban, from Romania, and son Ionut (9), at their flat in Seville Place. Photo: David Conachy
Devastated: Linonice Serban, from Romania, and son Ionut (9), at their flat in Seville Place. Photo: David Conachy
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A High Court judge said he had no option but to order dozens of residents to leave their homes as they are potential death traps due to fire safety concerns.

Several residents looked visibly distressed in court as Mr Justice Garrett Simons told them: "You can't live there. They are not safe."

Owner Vincent Donoghue. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Owner Vincent Donoghue. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

The decision came as one of the residents sharply criticised the receiver controlling the properties and Dublin City Council over its handling of the affair.

In an affidavit, electrical technician Romas Tusla alleged the receiver had turned his back on residents and that the council refused to provide residents with reports so they could carry out works themselves to address the fire safety concerns.

As many as 63 people, and not 40 as originally feared, are now faced with homelessness, according to activists seeking to find them alternative accommodation.

As of last night, temporary accommodation had been found for just two families and five individuals, Patrick Nelis of Dublin West Housing Action said. Most of the residents are foreign nationals.

Receiver Stephen Tennant, of Grant Thornton
Receiver Stephen Tennant, of Grant Thornton

The north inner city properties - 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place - were owned by Vincent and Catherine Donoghue, but have been under the control of AIB-appointed receiver Stephen Tennant, of Grant Thornton, since October 2016.

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

Last week, Mr Justice Anthony Barr granted the council temporary orders requiring residents to leave following a damning report by assistant chief fire officer Richard Hedderman.

In an affidavit, Mr Hedderman said a fire safety notice was served on the receiver in May last year and the council had believed necessary works were being carried out. But an inspection last July revealed the buildings had been allowed to deteriorate.

Mr Justice Simons yesterday continued the temporary orders and rejected pleas from the residents of 101 Seville Place for the order in relation to their property to be varied so they could stay while it is assessed by an engineer and works are carried out to address the safety concerns.

Joe Jackson BL, instructed by solicitor Herbert Kilcline, had argued the orders were a "draconian" measure which rendered his clients homeless.

Conleth Bradley SC, for the council, said the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive was engaging with residents.

But Mr Jackson said Mr Tusla had been told he could not access emergency accommodation as his income exceeds the relevant threshold. He said other residents had simply been given a number to call.

Mr Justice Simons accepted it was "a very unfortunate outcome" for the residents.

"Unfortunately the risk of a fire is so great this court would be neglectful of its duties if it were to allow them to remain in premises that are potentially a death trap," he said.

He put the matter back to September 24 to give residents "a second opportunity" to put forward evidence in opposition to the temporary orders.

In his affidavit, Mr Tusla said the receiver refused to engage with him or other residents and refused to accept rent after being appointed.

Joe Jeffers BL, for the receiver, said his instructions were that rent was received up to February of last year.

He also said contracts were in place to sell the buildings "as a single lot" to a service providing homeless accommodation to the council.

Read more: Dozens of residents say they are now homeless after court extends orders to vacate properties described as 'potential deathtraps'

Read more: 'We have nowhere to go' - tenants facing homelessness as documents reveal receiver 'told of fire risk' year before court evacuation order

Irish Independent

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