Residents of fire hazard apartments may have to leave homes
Residents of an apartment block found by engineers to be a fire hazard may have to leave their homes after a council inspection found major risks.
A draft report from Meath County Council raises serious concerns about the safety of 26 units and four business units, including a Tesco Express, at Riverwalk Court in Ratoath, Co Meath.
The report by the council's Chief Fire Officer Dermot Brannigan said the building had not been constructed in accordance with fire regulations.
There were no fire-stopping measures in the apartments, between walls or in the attic at Riverwalk Court, he reports.
The fire inspection took place last month and lasted four days. It lists 15 categories of breaches of fire regulations including several construction defects.
If the building did catch fire, the emergency lighting in shared areas doesn't work and there is a lack of smoke control in escape stairways, says Mr Brannigan.
He warned there may be more problems and pointed out his report was just a "summary of issues arising from our recent inspection".
"Due to limited access to design details, the issues identified are only those that are apparent on inspection and hence this cannot be construed as an exhaustive list of deficiencies," he said.
Mark Fitzmaurice, who moved his family out of his apartment three years ago after paying for an independent report, said he felt vindicated by the findings.
"Residents have spent more than €100,000 on reports and legal fees," he said. "We raised our concerns with Meath County Council in 2011 and we feel completely vindicated now that they have carried out this inspection. It tallies with all our own expert reports."
Meath County Council ordered a report from developers Saltan Properties Limited in June this year. The company is owned by developer Michael Ryan. He could not be reached for comment last night.
Another resident, Garda Joe Quinn, who continues to live in an apartment in the development with his wife Charlotte and three children, Jessica (17), Olivia (3) and Hayley (2), said he lived in fear of a fire breaking out.
"It has been a living nightmare," said Mr Quinn, who paid €250,000 for the property in 2005.
"But we have nowhere else to go. We hardly sleep at night because my daughters are the most important thing in the world and you have this fear of a fire starting and whether we would ever get out in time."
Meanwhile, landlords who dupe tenants into believing they are selling their properties will be forced to provide written proof of the sale or face hefty fines.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly wants to crack down on "unscrupulous landlords" who provide false grounds for evicting tenants.
Department of Environment officials have been informed of a number of cases whereby eviction notices are served by landlords who claim they intend to sell up, change the property use, or move a family member in.
But as part of Mr Kelly's long-awaited rent package, landlords will have to provide written evidence of their intentions, through the form of a statutory declaration signed by a solicitor or auctioneer. If found to have conned tenants into moving out, they face a fine of up to €4,000.