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'I'm fed up': Owners of Sandyford apartments given deadline to pay for fire safety repairs

An audit last year found potential fire safety deficiencies that could cost owners up to €14,000 each to repair.

RESIDENTS OF AN apartment complex in south Dublin have been told the first installment of a possible €14,000 to repair fire safety defects is due at the end of this month.

The Simonsridge development in Sandyford was one of 60 across the country included in a fire safety survey conducted by Keenan Property Management (KPM) after the Grenfell Tower fire in England. 

The management company informed Dublin Fire Brigade of concerns it had about fire safety at Simonsridge and the fire service requested developer Shannon Homes to undertake a full fire safety inspection of the development.

An audit by chartered surveyor Cathal Maher, prepared for the owner management company, estimated costs of between €11,000 and €14,000 per apartment to carry out the rectification works and up to €30,000 for each of the 32 common areas.

One resident told TheJournal.ie that they have now been told to pay a “levy” of €2,000 before 1 June, with an installment of €1,000 due at the end of this month. 

He said other residents in the complex have told him they simply do not have that money to hand over.

“They’ve been talking about anything up to €12,000 for each apartment so this will just be the beginning. We could hand this over, but I know it’s not going to stop there. Me and my wife, we’re not pinned to our collars, we both have jobs but I have spoken to others who are genuinely struggling and are really concerned.

“People might have to borrow money from the bank to fix something that shouldn’t need fixing in the first place. It’s nonsense.”

‘This is wrong’

A letter from the director of the Simonsridge [owner] Management Company earlier this month stated: “Our fire remediation works are critical and must be communicated on schedule and completed in a satisfactory manner.” 

The company said the costs are “legally owed” by each apartment owner. 

The resident who spoke to TheJournal.ie said he is “adamant I don’t want to pay this money”.

Look, I’m not a curmudgeon, I paid my water charges, I’ve always paid my taxes and rent in the past. I just think this is wrong. 

The Simonsridge development consists of 632 apartment units spread over 20 blocks. Construction on the complex began in 2004. 

Cathal Maher’s audit last year found that the development had been constructed in substantial compliance with the granted fire safety certificate. However, he noted a number of potential fire safety deficiencies relating to means of escape and internal fire spread.

A sample number of apartments (10) and common areas were examined in detail and deemed to be representative of the overall development. 

Maher’s report stated it was apparent that the internal protected hallways do not extend to the underside of the concrete slab above.

“This would mean the stated fire resistance of 30 minutes [in the submitted fire safety certificate] is not being achieved. A fire could spread and breach the protected hallways within the apartments in less than 30 minutes.”

Top floor apartments have access to the roof void section above the apartment but the attic hatches were noted not to be fire rated. The report stated the attic void “could provide a passage for smoke and fire above the internal hallway within an individual apartment”.

Maher’s report also found there are no fire extinguishers provided to the common areas which were surveyed.

“Fire extinguishers are noted on the fire safety certificate drawings and as such should be installed in order to achieve compliance with the approved fire safety certificate.”

He estimated costs of between €11,000 and €14,000 per apartment to rectify issues he identified. Works required to 32 common areas are expected to cost up to €30,000 for each.

‘No statutory role’

The resident who spoke to TheJournal.ie wrote to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy about the issue last year. In a response, the minister’s secretary said she wished to acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which owners and residents face when defects occur in their homes.

“In general building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, that is the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme,” she wrote.

In relation to developments where concerns over fire safety issues arise, when a building is constructed and occupied, statutory responsibility for safety is assigned by section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 & 2003, to the ‘person having control’ of the building.
The person having control is required to take reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire and to ensure the safety of persons in the event of fire. In multi-unit developments, the “person having control” is generally the Owner Management Company.

She said the State “has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings”.

“Nor could the taxpayer afford such a role. It is not possible for the State to take on responsibility/liability for all legacy issues nor would it send the right message to the industry regarding their responsibility for compliance.”

The man said he did not want taxpayers to have to pay for the repairs to his apartment, but he wanted stronger protections for homeowners like him and his wife, so that developers would have to foot the bill for deficiencies instead. 

“I’m just fed up. We’ve handed over so much bloody money in this country for so many catastrophes over the years. It’s frustrating.”

The board of Simonsridge management company said it had “no comment” to make about the cost of the fire safety work. KPM and Shannon Homes did not respond to requests for comment. 

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