Dozens of residents say they are now homeless after court extends orders to vacate properties described as 'potential deathtraps'
Approximately 40 people, including children. say they are now homeless after the High Court continued orders requiring them to leave their homes over fire safety concerns.
Last week the High Court granted Dublin City Council temporary injunctions requiring the residents of premises at 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place, Dublin, which all divided into several flats or bedsits, to immediately vacate the properties.
The majority of the residents are foreign nationals.
At the High Court on Monday Mr Justice Garrett Simons said that he had "no alternative" and would be negligent in his duty unless he continued the orders previously made by the court.
The Judge said he accepted the residents, who are opposed to orders requiring them to leave what has been their homes for some years, were unhappy with his decision, and he sympathised with the position they find themselves.
However, the evidence put before the court by a senior Fire Safety officer for DCC showed that each of the buildings is "potentially a deathtrap," and must be vacated.
DCC's actions are against the owners of the properties Vincent and Catherine, otherwise known as Kathleen, Donoghue and Mr Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton who was appointed as receiver over the three properties by AIB Mortgage Banks and AIB in October 2016.
At the outset of Monday's hearing, Mr Donoghue told the court that he has had no control over the properties for almost three years and that he did not like his name being used in the proceedings.
The receiver, represented by Joe Jeffers Bl, wants to sell the properties. Counsel said contracts are in place to sell the buildings and added that his client has not got rent from the properties since early 2018.
Lawyers for residents in 101 Seville Place asked the court to vary the injunction and allow them to remain in the building for several days.
In that time their engineer could assess the property and repairs and alterations to address the fire safety concerns could be carried out.
Joe Jackson Bl, instructed by solicitor Herbert Kilcline, for those living in 101 argued that it would be "draconian" and "unreasonable" for the court to continue orders that would render his clients homeless.
In a sworn statement one of the residents of 101 Mr Romas Tusla, an electrical technician, said the situation in the building was different from the other two. and that the tenants had maintained the property to a high standard.
He said he had asked DCC for the fire safety reports, so he and the other tenants can remedy the defects themselves.
Another resident of 101 Ms Ginger Wrobleski, a hotel worker, said she had paid rent to agents of the receiver after she was notified of his appointment in June 2017.
She said she was informed a month not to pay any more rent to the agent, as the agent said it was no longer the management agent for the property and Grant Thornton would be in contact with her.
Residents of the other two properties also attended court and said they were looking for a lawyer to represent them. They also told the court they were objecting to orders to vacate the buildings as they had nowhere to go.
Mr Justice Simons in refusing to vary the orders accepted that they had a right to contest DCC's application.
He said that DCC's claims about its fire safety concerns in the three buildings had not been addressed in the evidence that had been put before him on Monday.
He adjourned the case for two weeks, to allow the residents to prepare their cases, but said that the orders to vacate the buildings are to remain in being.
DCC, represented by Conleth Bradley SC and Karen Denning Bl, told the court that the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive was aware of the situation, and was doing its best to help the residents.
In seeking the order DCC says its fire safety officers had inspected the buildings in recent weeks. Those inspections revealed that the three properties are in very poor repair, and if a fire started in any of the buildings it would spread very quickly.
The risk to persons living in the what are four-story buildings is so serious that their continued use for residential purposes should be prohibited until several serious fire safety deficiencies are addressed.
The issues identified include that the bedsit doors were not fire doors, that emergency lighting was in disrepair, the internal lining of walls and ceilings were in serious disrepair, and the fire detection systems and alarms were faulty.
Fire detectors had been removed from common areas, escape routes had been obstructed, holes in the roof were poorly boarded up with combustible material, there were holes in the floor with wiring exposed.
There are no fire-resisting barriers between the stairway and the bedsits/flats.
Mr Bradley said DCC had serious fire safety concerns about the buildings which it inspected in 2017 and in 2018 when a fire safety notice was issued.
DCC believed that a maintenance company hired by the receiver had been carrying out necessary works on the buildings.
However the situation appeared to have deteriorated after DCC's Environmental Health Officer inspected the building last July, DCC claims.