Thursday 19 September 2019

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

Linonice Serban, from Romania, and her son Ionut (9), who have been ordered to leave their flat. Picture: David Conachy
Linonice Serban, from Romania, and her son Ionut (9), who have been ordered to leave their flat. Picture: David Conachy

Shane Phelan and Fiona Dillon

A receiver was warned more than a year ago of fire safety concerns about residential buildings which now have to be evacuated, according to papers lodged in court.

Dublin City Council secured temporary High Court injunctions on Thursday requiring more than 40 residents to immediately leave the three north inner-city buildings, which are divided into flats and bedsits.

According to papers lodged in support of the application, the council had believed work would take place last year to rectify safety concerns it had.

In an affidavit, assistant chief fire officer Richard Hedderman said a copy of a fire safety notice was served on receiver Stephen Tennant, of Grant Thornton, on May 8 last year.

Mr Hedderman said that from that date there was ongoing communications between the local authority and a maintenance company appointed by the receiver.

He said it had been the council's belief the necessary works were being carried out as required.

But Mr Hedderman said an inspection he carried out on July 26 this year "revealed that the buildings had been allowed to deteriorate".

Mr Tennant declined to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent.

"Receivers are not in a position to comment on ongoing cases," a spokesperson for Grant Thornton said.

Residents of the three properties - 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place - are now faced with the difficult task of having to seek other accommodation in the teeth of a housing crisis.

Some said yesterday they had nowhere to go.

The three buildings were owned by Vincent and Catherine Donoghue, from Sallins, Co Kildare, who have been involved in property for many years and previously had interests in construction and health businesses.

Mr Tennant was appointed as receiver over the three buildings by AIB Mortgage Bank and AIB in October 2016.

It is understood the Donoghues maintain they have had no involvement in the running of the properties since the appointment of the receiver.

Mr Hedderman said one of the buildings, 100 Seville Place, dated from 1830, was four storeys high and comprised eight dwelling units.

He said there were approximately 21 people, including six children, living there.

Inspections of the building were conducted in June and November 2017 and following on from these warning letters were sent to the receiver and the property management company, according to Mr Hedderman. Fire safety notices were served on Vincent and Catherine Donoghue in March 2018 and on Mr Tennant two months later.

Mr Hedderman said his own inspection of 100 Seville Place last July found there was only one escape route, which was the main stairway.

None of the flats had the required 30 minutes fire resistance required in order to facilitate escape. There were bars on the windows at basement level restricting the ability to flee, missing detector heads in a number of flats and no vent at the top of the stairs to release smoke and hot gases.

Mr Hedderman said none of the doors inspected was a fire door, and lacked self-closing devices as required. He found that due to lack of separation throughout the property, a fire would spread rapidly.

One couple affected by the injunctions, Marcos (38) and Ginger Wroblewski (36), originally from Brazil, said they were desperately trying to source alternative accommodation.

"We have nowhere to go. That is the biggest problem," said Ms Wroblewski, who lives in number 101.

"I am trying desperately to find a place to live but it is very hard."

Romanian Tudor Manciu (38), who lives in a one-bedroom flat at number 100, said it was not possible for everybody to leave immediately.

"There are many families here with kids," he said.

Mr Manciu said the people in his building were predominately from Romania.

A council spokesperson said residents were contacted a number of weeks ago and advised to speak to its officials.

"Those that presented were advised individually of their housing options," she said.

The matter is before the High Court again on Monday.

Irish Independent

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