Residents vow to resist eviction order over fire safety issue

Householders in Leeside apartments in Cork say repairs could be done with tenants in situ

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

 

Social Affairs Correspondent

Sixteen low-income householders in Cork city say they will stay in their apartments despite a determination by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) that they must leave.

The residents of Leeside apartments say there is no need for them to leave permanently for renovations to bring the apartments up to fire safety standards to be carried out, though they could move out temporarily.

They believe the new landlord wishes to increase rents after the works. They currently pay between €550 and €750 a month.

The issue was the subject of a Dáil row on Tuesday, when Solidarity TD Mick Barry claimed his questions had not been answered about the notice to quit served on tenants at the complex.

The Cork North -Central TD refused to resume his seat after Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said he would be bringing in a second tenant protection Bill to deal with cases where landlords use the need for refurbishment “as an excuse to evict tenants on grounds that are spurious”.

“Many of the tenants have children, many are low income. Many of the residents have lived in Leeside for years,” Mr Barry said.

“All of them now face the prospect of being made homeless. They have nowhere else to go and all of this for what - to maximise profits for vulture funds.”

When Mr Barry said he would continue to be disorderly, Mr Ó Fearghaíl suspended the House for 10 minutes.

In an adjudication, published on Friday, the RTB said substantial fire safety concerns at the Leeside complex required “extensive” work and it was “not possible in any practical manner to maintain a tenancy” while the works are ongoing.

The tenants say the ruling demonstrates the need to make guidelines on “substantial renovations”, published by the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy last November, legally binding.

The 78 apartments, divided into five blocks, had been in receivership before being purchased by Lugus Capital in October 2017 with a view to bringing them up to standards. Work began in January after many tenants –mostly students – moved out.

One of the residents, Aimee O’Riordan, who has been living at Leeside apartments for six years with her five-year-old son Alex, was issued with a notice to quit taped to her front door. She met up with the other residents.

“We agreed to start a campaign to save our homes. It isn’t necessary for us to leave. We’ve been living in a construction site for the past six months and the work is nearly complete,” she said, speaking at a press event called by Solidarity.

During the RTB hearing an engineer commissioned by the tenants said it would be “possible to carry out the works with tenants in situ” though they “would probably need to vacate their apartment when the works were being carried out on each apartment”.

In a statement Lugus Capital said: “Leeside Apartments are undergoing a €4.4 million refurbishment. 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...The landlord is fully complying with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.”

A spokesman for Mr Murphy said the RTB, an independent statutory body, had issued adjudication reports in respect of tenants of Leeside Apartments which found that the termination notices are valid.

“It has to be recognised, that substantial refurbishment in many cases warrants the legitimate issuing of notices of termination to tenants in order to attain vacant possession for major works to be carried out,” he said.

“ However, the Government has moved to address concerns that this provision may have been used inappropriately in the past.”