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High Court judge makes orders for residents to vacate three Dublin properties described as 'firetraps'

Dublin City Council inspections had revealed that the three properties are in very poor repair.

100 and 101 Seville Place, Dublin
100 and 101 Seville Place, Dublin
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

A HIGH COURT judge has said he has “no option” other than to make orders that three Dublin properties he described as “firetraps” be vacated over fire safety concerns.

The orders were made by Justice Seamus Noonan, who also criticised the handling by the receiver appointed by AIB over the properties located at 100, 101 and 104 Seville Place, Dublin 1 of fire safety warnings issued in respect of the buildings.

Last month, the High Court granted Dublin City Council (DCC) temporary injunctions requiring the residents of the properties which are each divided into several flats or bedsits, to immediately vacate the buildings.

Inspections carried out by senior fire safety officials at DCC had revealed that the three properties are in very poor repair, and if a fire started in any of the buildings it would spread very quickly.

The risk to persons living in the what are four-storey 190-year-old buildings is so serious that their continued use for residential purposes should be prohibited until several serious fire safety deficiencies are addressed, DCC said.

DCC, represented by Conleth Bradley SC and Karen Denning Bl, sought orders against the owners of the properties Vincent and Catherine, otherwise known as Kathleen, Donoghue and Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton who was appointed as receiver over the three properties by AIB Mortgage Banks and AIB in October 2016.

The Donoghues did not participate in the proceedings, and the court heard they have not had control over the properties since the receiver’s appointment.

The court previously heard that the buildings were to be sold. However, those sales have fallen through.

At the High Court today, Justice Noonan made the injunctions, sought under section 23 of the 1981 Fire Services Act, final.

The properties, he said, must be vacated until a time the properties are compliant with fire safety regulations.

Residents

It had been estimated that up to 40 persons had been living in the properties. There were no objections to the orders from persons living at 100 and 104 Seville Place.

Lawyers representing several residents at 101, who claim they have valid tenancies for the property, had initially argued that they should be allowed stay in their homes while works were done to remedy DCC’s fire safety concerns.

Those residents, represented by Joe Jackson Bl instructed by solicitor Herbert Kilcline, said their client’s application was undermined by the fact persons had forcibly entered and are now living in the basement at 101.

That part of the building requires extensive fire safety repairs, counsel said.

Their expert’s report stated that his six clients could remain in the building while fire safety works could be carried out as long as the basement was not used, Jackson said.

DCC accepted that some improvements had been made to 101 in recent weeks, but that its latest inspection had shown that all three buildings need to be vacated immediately.

Bradley said that efforts were being made to find alternative accommodation for all of the residents.

The judge said he had “huge sympathy for” the residents represented by Jackson, who the court accepted now found themselves homeless “through no fault of their own”.

Given the evidence put before the court about the buildings he said he had no option other than grant the orders sought.

The judge said he could not allow a situation to develop where the residents could be burnt in their beds in the middle of the night.

The reason why the residents, whose claim to tenancies in 101 are fully contested by the receiver, were in this situation was due to “a failure by the receiver” Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton to address the fire safety concerns, the judge said.

Fire safety notices

The judge said the buildings had been the subject of fire safety notices requiring certain works to be in 2017, two years before DCC had come to court seeking the orders to vacate the buildings.

Very little was done in terms of fire safety improvements to the buildings during that period of almost two and a half years, which was “quite astonishing”, he said.

The judge said the receiver had said that the works were not done because the receiver was waiting to see if the loans which the buildings had been provided as security were to be transferred to a fund and a new receiver appointed.

That reason the judge said was “not a good one”, adding that nothing was done with buildings that were potential fire hazards and “a risk of life and limb” for those living there.

In the circumstances, the judge said that as well as making the orders sought by the council he was also granting DCC and Jackson’s clients their legal costs against the receiver.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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