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Owners in Dublin development hit with €18k bill each for fire safety repairs
The developer of the Linden complex is in receivership.

OWNERS OF PROPERTIES in a complex in Blackrock, Dublin, have been hit with a bill of €18,000 each to repair fire safety deficiencies at their homes.

The Linden complex was built in 1999 and consists of both apartments and houses. The developer, Capel Developments, has gone into receivership.

Owners have been advised that it may be too late now to pursue legal action against any of the firms involved in the development because deficiencies were only uncovered years after it was built. 

Nama appointed a receiver to Capel Developments in 2011 as it struggled with €100 million in debt. 

In 2017 there was a fire in one of the apartments at Linden. After an assessment by the insurance firm, various fire safety issues were noted and the insurer withdrew coverage.

Alternative insurance was obtained but in order to meet the conditions of the new insurance, the owners’ management company commissioned Crawford Architects to conduct a survey of the complex. 

In multi-unit developments, an owners’ management company (OMC) legally owns the common areas and is responsible for their upkeep. All property owners in a development legally become members of their OMC and can be elected to become a director.

The architecture firm hired by the OMC reviewed the fire certificates attached to the planning application for the development. It then compared the findings of its survey of the complex to those certificates as well as the relevant building codes. 

The main issued identified involved fire-stopping. Each apartment should essentially be its own separate fire rated unit, that protects residents for a required duration before a fire spreads into it from a neighbouring unit or a common area. 

Fire-stopping material blocks gaps and voids that would allow a fire to spread. The survey found that this material was missing in the majority of areas and where they were present, they had not been installed correctly and needed to be replaced. 

These fire safety deficiencies identified in the apartments were not found in the Linden houses. 

In December 2019 owners received an invoice from the complex’s management company for the levy of €18,000 and were told they could pay it all up front or set up a standing order within 60 days to pay it over 12 months minimum. 

Owners were told that the levy can be followed up in the same way as service charges, including using legal remedies and potential restriction of services or even restriction of access to the property as a last resort. 

One of the owners of an apartment in the complex, told that he and his wife will struggle to come up with the €18,000 required for the works. 

“How they think people have €18,000 when they already have mortgages on the properties is just bonkers. We were hit with this before Christmas and we were just like ‘what do we do?’”

He and his wife lived in the apartment for a number of years when they first purchased the property but moved when they wanted to start a family. He said they could not sell the apartment during the recession as they were in negative equity so they rented it out to tenants. 

I’m not going to start screaming on behalf of landlords, I’m not a big landlord by any means, but there are [rent] restrictions in place. Our main objective is to cover the mortgage – we do that – and we also have to pay the management fees, which the tenant doesn’t pay and everything else on top of that.

He said it would not be possible for them to sell the property until the deficiencies are addressed.

“We’re going to have to borrow from somewhere, I don’t have €18,000. I won’t say we’re cut to the pin of our collars, but we don’t have close to that kind of money”.  

Fire safety surveys

This development is just one of a number of complexes in which fire safety issues have been identified in recent years. 

After the Grenfell Tower fire in England, several developments across the country were surveyed. In some circumstances, developers involved in these developments are in receivership or have had their companies dissolved. 

Last month revealed residents at another apartment complex – Simonsridge in Sandyford, – were told it could cost them up to €14,000 each to repair the fire safety defects.

A survey of this development in Sandyford found a fire could spread and breach protected hallways within the apartments in less than 30 minutes. It also found that roof voids in the complex were not fire rated. 

Their first instalment of €1,000 for remediation works was due at the end of January. 

Legal action

At a meeting in May last year, owners at the Linden development in Blackrock were told by a solicitor hired by the OMC that the developer is in receivership. They were also told that one of the construction companies involved in the apartments is now dissolved. 

She told owners that the owners’ management company wrote to the second construction company, which is still in operation, but this firm had said its contract was with Capel Developments and not the OMC and it therefore had no liability. 

A letter was also issued to the architecture firm that certified that the complex was in compliance with building regulations.

This company, she said, stated that each owner would have had their own survey done and any claim would now be statute barred anyway. Owners were told that a case would usually have to have been taken within six years of the development’s construction. 

In a statement to, the board of directors of Linden owners’ management company said:

A survey of the apartment buildings was recently finalised which highlighted some remedial actions that were necessary to ensure the building is in compliance with fire safety obligations.
These works are to be carried out throughout 2020 /2021.

“This matter is being managed by the Board of Directors of the Owners Management Company which consists of Linden property owners. All owners in Linden have been fully consulted over a number of meetings. Core Estate Management act as agents only and are instructed by the Board.”

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