A protest against the eviction of over 20 families from the Leeside Apartments in Cork will take place in the city centre this weekend.
The Leeside Anti-Eviction Group is calling on the people of Cork to support its demonstration which takes place at the top of Winthrop Street at 2pm on Saturday.
One resident facing eviction over the refurbishment work says the landlord is using refurbishment as a loophole to increase rents and get around legislation limiting rent increases in certain areas to 4 per cent per annum.
“The reality is that any landlord who wants to up rents and can’t because of the really weak rent pressure zone restrictions, can find ways around it with the number of loopholes that are there,” the resident, Jon, said.
“Since this whole thing has begun at Leeside Apartments, I’ve heard stories of substantial refurbishment becoming a popular loophole for landlords to take advantage of.
“These loopholes have existed for so long and it’s not the first time that vulture funds have shown that if there are gaps in legislation that can be exploited, then they will exploit them.” he said.
Lugus Capital, the owner of Leeside Apartments, says it acquired the 70 unit apartment block in October and it was planning to carry out a €3 million refurbishment of the property.
It said it carried out a full structural survey and fire safety inspection as part of its acquisition process and found that the apartments were not in compliance with their fire certificates.
“The refurbishment is necessary not only to bring the building up to modern standards but also to maintain the safety of the residents,” the company said in a statement.
It said that it advised all resident tenants of its planned refurbishment, with some 23 residential tenancies each being given full notice periods corresponding to the length of their tenancy.
Lugus Capital said that it was fully complying with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 in terms of issuing the eviction notices to the tenants to allow for a refurbishment of the apartment block.
One of the founding members of the Leeside Anti-Eviction Group, Aimee O' Riordan, said that guidelines, issued by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), are not having the desired effect on landlords.
“Despite the RTB guidelines, there is still huge scope for landlords to do a minimum amount of refurbishments and then up rents to the insane levels we’re seeing in Cork at the moment.
“If fire safety needs to be improved in our building, it can and should be done in such a way that evictions can be avoided. The Government needs to act on this and act quickly,” she said.
According to Ms O’Riordan, residents decided to form the action group following attempts by Lungus Capital to serve mass evictions on all tenants and to challenge “ the greed and profiteering by vulture funds which the Government is allowing to be carried out.”
Cllr Fiona Ryan, a Solidarity councillor for the Cork North Central ward, said the vast majority of tenants are planning to challenge the attempted evictions and she urged people to stand with them.
“With many families facing the prospect of homelessness due to the huge costs of rent in the city, a line must be drawn in the sand as to what is more important in our society - the right of a few individuals to profit or the rights of the majority to have a roof over their heads?,” she said.
Another Leeside Apartment resident Fernanda Bariolonia said the Leeside Anti-Eviction Group was calling on housing groups, community groups and the people of Cork to join their protest.
“Join us on Saturday outside Brown Thomas at 2pm and call on the Government to close the existing loopholes and stop vulture fund evictions! Today it is us, but tomorrow it could be you.”