Cork city flats cannot be refurbished with tenants in place – report

Leeside Apartments complex has ‘widespread fire safety shortcomings’

An inquiry found the Leeside Apartments complex in Cork has  widespread fire safety deficiencies

An inquiry found the Leeside Apartments complex in Cork has widespread fire safety deficiencies

 

An apartment complex in Cork city, which all tenants have been told to quit, has widespread fire safety deficiencies, an inquiry has concluded.

The Residential Tenancies Board inquiry found it was not practical for refurbishments to be carried out with the tenants in place.

The Leeside Apartments complex, a cluster of 78 apartments in five blocks bounded by Bachelor’s Quay, Grattan Street and Francis Street in central Cork, is said by opponents of the notices of termination to be owned by a vulture fund.

The apartments can accommodate up to 175 people and, according to Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry, these were divided roughly 60-40 between students and low-income residents.

The current landlord is identified in Residential Tenancies Board papers as Larea Fa Fund Ii DAC, one of whose directors, Tom Maughan, is also a director of Bain Capital (Ireland) Limited.

Bain Capital is an alternative investment fund company based in Boston, Massachusetts, co-founded in 1984 by former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The Leeside complex was sold in 2017 to Lugus Capital, reported to be the Irish agent for Bain Capital.

Adjudication

Larea Fa Fund Ii wants the entire complex vacated for refurbishment and, late last week, a test case brought by one tenant, Jon Allan Patrick, resulted in an adjudication by the Residential Tenancies Board.

The inquiry leading to the adjudication heard evidence on behalf of the landlord from a chartered surveyor, Christopher Deery. He “identified widespread fire safety shortcomings”, according to the adjudicator’s report, and that so-called fire stopping (a barrier within a wall cavity that prevents, or hampers, the spread of fire) was absent.

It was the intention to refurbish every one of the 78 apartments, and Mr Deery said the cost of doing so would double if work had to be done on an apartment-by-apartment basis. The projected cost was €3.2 million.

The tenant, supported by Threshold, the national housing charity, argued the work should be done in such a way as to avoid mass evictions, with tenants vacating individual apartments for two to three weeks to allow the work to be done.

The RTB adjudicator, Simon Brady, came down on the side of Larea Fa Fund Ii and, by extension, Lugus Capital.

Such was the extent and duration of the works needed, with fire alarm systems being turned off and material being stored on site, there would be a health hazard for residents remaining in situ, he ruled. He also found they would be exposed to dust and hazardous materials.

The landlord said that contractors would not agree to carry out the work if the complex remained occupied.

The adjudication can be appealed for up to 10 days after the ruling. A spokeswoman for Threshold acknowledged that the case was the first such on which the RTB had adjudicated.