Residents 'totally shocked' at 'mass eviction' from city apartments
A YOUNG mother who faces losing her home in the "mass eviction" of a Cork apartment complex by its new owners said she has no idea where she will find alternative accommodation.
Aimee O'Riordan (26) admitted residents of the Leeside Apartments on Bachelor's Quay in Cork city centre were left "totally shocked" by the notices to quit.
A total of 23 families and single tenants are currently living in the apartment complex which is just 100m from Cork city centre.
The new owners have asked all residents to leave, serving notices to quit on everyone, as they explained they need vacant possession for major refurbishment work.
Lugus Capital, which bought the complex last October, said it plans a €3m refurbishment to ensure it is in full compliance with fire safety certification.
The tenants, many of whom are East European, have been informed they need to quit the complex by next March.
However, Aimee said many residents now fear they have little or no chance of finding comparable accommodation in Cork city as the same rent level.
Aimee has lived at the Leeside Apartments for five years - and it is the only home known by her son, Alex (4).
The little boy is due to start school and Aimee is afraid that his life will be totally disrupted if she is forced to move a substantial distance away from the Bachelor's Quay area.
"In the worst case scenario, I may have to suspend my studies," she said.
"I am studying for a BA degree in Social Work and it is something I hope to make a career of," she said.
"In the worst case scenario, I will have to suspend my University College Cork (UCC) studies.
"This is a lovely place to live. The rent has been very reasonable, there are lovely, friendly people living here and it is where I have built my life," she said.
"I like it here. I first came here and thought it would be temporary but I stayed. It is convenient and it is safe."
She first learned of the eviction when she heard a noise in the corridor outside her apartment and, on going to investigate, found a legal notice taped to the front door.
The mass eviction dominated headlines in Cork with radio stations such as 96FM flooded with calls of support for residents like Aimee.
Dozens of callers have slated the timing of the eviction notices.
Cork North Central TD Mick Barry (S-PBP) raised the residents plight in the Dáil and he accused landlords of playing havoc with peoples lives.
"The Minister for Housing must move urgently to close the legal loophole which allows evictions of this kind," he said.
"I am confident that if these residents organise and fight these evictions they will have the support of ordinary people right across the country."
Mr Barry also said the timing of the eviction notices so close to Christmas was incredibly heartless.
Residents like Aimee have already consulted with housing support agencies like Threshold.
"My concern is that there simply isn't any comparable accommodation to this, particularly in terms of rental costs, in the city centre," she said.
"I don't want to end up living miles from here because this is where we have built our lives."
Termination letters were received by all residents in early October.
The property owners hope to have vacant possession by next March.
The letters explained: “The following works will be carried out. The installation of new fire doors, the refurbishment of all common areas, installation of new flooring throughout common areas and apartments in the building, refurbishment and redecoration of apartments and installation of new kitchens in apartments”.
Lugus Capital insisted the work on the complex is vital.
"The refurbishment is necessary not only to bring the building up to modern standards but also to maintain the safety of the residents."
Leeside Apartments is comprised of 78 apartments which offer 175 beds complete with a private 32-space car park.
The entire complex was on the market last year for €7.75m.
At the time, it boasted a near 90pc occupancy rate.
In the letters received by the residents, the owners stressed that they would be offered the chance to re-occupy the property once it becomes available for re-letting.
However, all the residents believe that the rents - some of which are currently €730 per month for a two bedroom apartment - will be substantially increased at that point.
In a statement, Lungus Capital said:
"Cork’s Leeside Apartments are to undergo a €3 million refurbishment, with works to commence in December 2017. Leeside Apartments are currently not in compliance with their fire certificates, so the refurbishment is necessary not only to bring the building up to modern standards but also to maintain the safety of the residents. Lugus Capital acquired the building at the start of October 2017, and as part of their acquisition process, they carried out a full structural survey and fire safety inspection.
"Currently, there are only 23 residential tenancies at Leeside Apartments. All residential tenants have been issued notices, with full notice periods corresponding to the length of their tenancy."