Estate agents seek cash buyers for properties with potential fire defects

Sherry FitzGerald says it is making potential buyers ‘fully aware’ fire safety work is needed

Estate agents are asking prospective buyers of properties with outstanding fire safety audits if they can purchase in cash as banks may not lend to them.

Responding to an email enquiry about a Celtic Tiger-era property for sale in the Dublin 8 area, an estate agent working for Sherry FitzGerald asked the potential buyer if they would be purchasing with cash or a mortgage.

When the buyer queried why they were being asked this at such an early stage, the agent responded to say a fire safety audit was being carried out on the building and, “as a result a bank might not lend on it”.

Advocacy groups have said up to 92,000 apartments built during the boom in Ireland could be affected by legacy defects such as a lack of fire-stopping material.

An Irish Times investigation running since December 2018 has uncovered defects in 33 developments comprising more than 2,100 apartments in the State.

While properties with fire safety defects such as these can legally be sold, it is up to the vendor to disclose any details of such issues in a document called Requisitions on Title, which the solicitor for the purchaser requests before sale.

Rental ‘danger’

Responding to queries from The Irish Times, a spokesperson for Sherry FitzGerald said “we understand the management company in the block carried out a fire safety audit and have advised owners that some fire safety work is required and we are therefore making any potential buyers fully aware of this”.

Sinn Féin’s spokesman on housing, Eoin O’Broin, said: “I am concerned that properties with potential fire safety defects are being sold, particularly if they end up in the private rental market. In such instances there is no guarantee that the tenant will be aware of the potential danger.

“It should not be possible to sell a property for residential purposes without a valid fire safety certificate. I will be writing to the Minister asking him to investigate this matter and to outline what action he intends to take.”

Separately, a working group set up to examine the issue of defective housing met for the first time on Friday to discuss its term of reference.

The group has been tasked with establishing the number of homes affected by such defects, categorising the severity of the defects, suggesting means of remediation and considering how this would be financed.

It is understood that the meeting was a positive one and while no agreement was reached on the terms of reference members were asked to forward their suggested changes to the chairman of the group, Seamus Neely, before their next meeting at the end of April.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Niamh Towey

Niamh Towey

Niamh Towey is an Irish Times journalist