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The Crescent Building in Park West. Google Street View
Fire Safety

'I nearly fell off my chair': Dublin apartment owners face €68,000 fire defects bill

As many as 100,000 homes across the country may be impacted by fire safety or water ingress issues.

APARTMENT OWNERS AT a Celtic-Tiger development in Dublin were “stunned” when they were told this week that they will each be expected to pay over €68,000 under a proposal to repair fire safety defects. 

It had been reported last year that costs to repair defects at the Crescent Apartment Building in Parkwest were expected to total €5 million. 

However during a Zoom meeting hosted by the board of the Owners’ Management Company, this week they were told the cost will be €15.9 million and each owner is expected to pay a levy of €68,500 over five years.

Owners will vote on the proposal at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in a number of weeks and if the plan is approved the first €15,000 installment would be expected within six weeks so the work can commence.

A similar installment would then be expected a year on. The main defects relate to an absence of fire stopping material between apartments, on external walls and in the roof of the large apartment building.

It is understood owners were told that these issues account for around half of the overall costs while other work such as fire doors, evacuation routes and emergency signage account for the rest. 

One owner told The Journal that people were “stunned” by the figure presented during the meeting. He said:

It was a shock, I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the figure on the screen, I thought it must be a mistake.

He said there were 90 other owners on the call and more than 150 questions were answered over the course of the two-hour meeting. 

While it was acknowledged that €15,000 per year is a significant levy for each owner, he said the main message was that the money will just have to be found.

Told to ‘go to the Credit Union’ 

“They did say that they had heard the Credit Union was the best place to go to for a loan but if I go to them and get €15,000, I can’t afford to pay back the €400 per month or whatever it is over five years,” he said.

“And then what am I meant to do next year when they want the next €15,000 installment? Am I meant to go back to the Credit Union again? 

“I’m an accidental landlord with tenants, but I have no equity in the apartment to borrow against and I don’t have the disposable income to get unsecured lending from a bank. I have a mortgage and childcare bills to pay, I simply can’t come up with that kind of money and I’m sure plenty of people are in the same situation. I’m sure people agree the work needs to be done but you can’t get blood from a stone.”

In a statement, the board of the Owners’ Management Company (OMC), of which all owners are members, said that while the owners bear no responsibility for the defects, the are forced to “put right the mistakes of others”. 

“Unfortunately, we are included in the nearly 70% of apartments affected by fire safety issues,” the board said.

‘The mistakes of others’

“The huge costs associated with these repairs are the fault of developers & builders cutting corners on safety and the government for allowing them to get away with it. The owners bear no responsibility for this but are being forced by the same government regulators to put right the mistakes of others.

“The government, in creating the mica redress scheme has acknowledged that this is wrong. We are adding our names to tens of thousands of others calling on the government to establish a redress scheme for apartment homeowners in the upcoming budget.”

Last month the Department of Housing published a report compiled by a dedicated working group which assessed the scale of the problem across the country and the feasibility of various possible solutions.

According to the report, the cost of remedial works ranges from €1.56 to €2.5 billion and as many as 100,000 homes are estimated to be impacted. The working group has recommended that a State-funded remediation scheme be “fully considered from a policy and cost perspective”.

The group assessed the concept of imposing penalties on certain construction firms who were responsible for the defects. However its final report states that it is “not feasible to retrospectively impose a penalty on individual firms”.

‘It is distressing’

It also presented a wider industry levy as one of a number of options, but it pointed to several potential issues with this approach, including a wider impact on construction costs.

The owner who spoke to The Journal said people like him need the government to fast-track funding.

“It’s a nightmare at the moment, I am trying not to let it stress me out but it is distressing,” he said. 

“We need a grant scheme to make these places safe, it’s evident now that it was a massive mistake to let builders self-certify and the government needs to acknowledge that by paying for the repairs.”

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