Saturday 17 February 2018

'We're the victims here' - Longboat Quay residents face eviction unless they cover €4m repair bill for fire safety failings

Longboat Quay Apartments near dublin's Grand Canal Dock.
Longboat Quay Apartments near dublin's Grand Canal Dock. Newsdesk Newsdesk

Residents in a Dublin city centre apartment complex have been told to pay €4 million in less than a week or face eviction after major fire safety deficiencies were discovered in their building.

Around 900 people live in the 299 apartments in the Longboat Quay complex by the Dublin docklands.

Residents of the apartments on Sir John Rogerson's Quay were left horrified when they were told last night owners would have to pay between €9,300 to €18,000 depending on the size of their apartment.

“I was asked to pay €18,000 and I told the chap last night I wouldn’t be paying it – I haven’t got that kind of money,” one resident told RTE’s Six One News.

Longboat Quay was built by developer Bernard McNamara in 2006 with owners paying between €450,000 and €750,000 at the height of the boom. 

However serious fire safety deficiencies were uncovered last year and so far Dublin Docklands Development Authority, the nominal landlord, has paid €1 million to fix the fire alarm system.

But further work is required to upgrade fire walls and smoke vents at a cost of €4 million.

Read More: Enda Kenny urged to help resolve plight of residents in 'fire risk' complex

The docklands authority insists this is the responsibility of apartment owners as the company used by Mr NcNamara has gone into receivership.

But many owners say while they could pay some of the cost, they should not be responsible for “problems they did not know existed”.

Richard Eardley Director Longboat Quay Management
Richard Eardley Director Longboat Quay Management

“We the owners are the victims here, we all bought apartments here in the last few years without knowing these problems existed and now we’re faced with a big problem,” said Richard Eardley Director Longboat Quay Management.

He told Six One News that while owners could be part of the solution, the receiver and the DDDA also had a part to play.

Longboat Quay is 60 pc owner occupier and 40 pc tenants.

Speaking to this morning, local Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour), who was at the public meeting last night, said both Dublin City Council and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) have a "moral responsibility" to deal with the issue and not leave residents "in the lurch".

"I am horrified by the lack of engagement by public bodies in this matter. Dublin City Council are the moral landlords and the DDDA have a moral responsibility... and yet people are walking away from responsibility," he said.

"My job is to sit down with both Dublin City Council and the DDDA and try and resolve it and not leave people in the lurch," he added.

Read More: Bernard McNamara's development firm Gendsong behind the Longboat Quay property

Speaking to Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ One today, resident Paula Daly said that residents knew about a potential problem 24 months ago.

“Apparently, going back to 2011, Dublin Fire Brigade gave the ok that everything was ok, but they came back two years ago and told us there was a problem.

“Last night we got hit with the amount they’re looking for everyone to pay. I’m in a three-bedroom duplex and they want €18,000. Myself and my husband have two children and we both work, but I don’t know where we’re going to get this money.”

In the last six weeks, Dublin Fire Brigade has twice threatened to apply for a fire safety notice if remedial works to make the complex safe were not performed.

Last night, residents were told a tender for the remedial works has been accepted - but funding required for the work has not yet been acquired.

Residents were then told that a sum of €4 million was required or Dublin Fire Brigade could move in to evacuate the premises.

"I think the Dublin Fire Brigade is trying to be helpful here. They are trying to push for a resolution," Cllr Lacey said.

"The DDDA was a very successful company - and they do have some assets. There is funding there. It's not a lot of money but it could help," he said.

Cllr Lacey also claimed that some 18 apartments were owned by a receiver.

Read More: Residents angry at new charges for fire safety work at Dockland homes

The complex was constructed by Gendson, a vehicle for bankrupt developer Bernard McNamara, which has now gone into receivership.

Cllr Lacey suggested that these apartments could be sold in order to help residents with the funding required.

"The figures outlined last night at the meeting - whether they can find that money at the end of the week, it's a little unreal. We need to identify where such monies will come from in a very short period of time."

The 299 units in the development were built eight years ago by former developer Bernard McNamara who later went bankrupt. Most were sold to private buyers and some cost more than €500,000.

In February, it emerged serious shortcomings were discovered in an inspection last summer, including some walls deemed inadequate to contain a fire and an absence of some smoke vents needed if a fire broke out.

Consultations with Dublin Fire Brigade resulted in an evacuation of the blocks being avoided on condition that fire warden patrols were implemented.

One couple said their annual management fee for their one-bedroom apartment was increased by €200 a year to €1,200 for the next four years to pay for some of the work.

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