Judge tells residents to stay out of Dublin 1 properties due to fire safety fears
Group of 40 people living in three houses on Seville Place say they are homeless due to ruling
Numbers 100 and 101 Seville Place in Dublin 1. Temporary injunctions requiring the residents to immediately leave flats and bedsits in the properties, and another at 104 Seville Place, remain in force. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times.
A group of around 40 people, including children, say they are now homeless after the High Court continued orders requiring them to leave their Dublin 1 homes as a result of fire safety concerns.
The High Court had granted Dublin City Council temporary injunctions requiring the residents to immediately leave flats and bedsits at 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place.
Mr Justice Garrett Simons said on Monday he had “no alternative” and would be negligent in his duty unless he continued the orders made last week.
The judge said he accepted the residents, who are opposed to the orders, were unhappy with his decision and he sympathised with the position they find themselves in. However, he said the evidence put before the court by a senior fire safety officer for the council showed that each of the buildings was “potentially a deathtrap” and must be vacated.
The council’s actions are against the owners of the properties, Vincent and Catherine, otherwise known as Kathleen, Donoghue and Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton, who was appointed as receiver over the three properties by AIB Mortgage Banks and AIB in October 2016.
Mr Donoghue told the court on Monday that he has had no control over the properties for almost three years and 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 do so and that his client has not received rent from the properties since early last year.
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 so an engineer could assess the property and carry out repairs and alterations to address the fire safety concerns.
Joe Jackson BL, instructed by solicitor Herbert Kilcline, for those living in 101 Seville Place, 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 the property, Romas Tusla, an electrical technician, said the situation in 101 was different from the other two properties and that the tenants had maintained the property to a high standard. He said he had asked the council for the fire safety reports, so he and the other tenants can remedy the defects themselves.
Ginger Wrobleski, a hotel worker living in 101, said she had paid rent to agents of the receiver after she was notified of his appointment in June 2017. She said she was then informed not to pay any more rent to the agent and that 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 said 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 the council’s application. He said the council’s claims about its fire safety concerns in the three buildings had not been addressed in the evidence 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 continue.
The council, 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.
The council says the risk to those living in the four-storey buildings is serious and that their continued use for residential purposes should be prohibited until the 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 was in serious disrepair and the fire detection systems and alarms were faulty.
It said 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 and there are no fire-resisting barriers between the stairway and the bedsits/flats.
Mr Bradley said the council had serious fire safety concerns about the buildings which it inspected in 2017 and last year, when a fire safety notice was issued. The council believed that a maintenance company hired by the receiver had been carrying out necessary works on the buildings. However, it said the situation appeared to have deteriorated when its environmental health officer inspected the building in July.