Residents facing €400k fire safety bill

Homeowners in a development which is now being patrolled by fire marshals have been told that they must come up with €400,000 in the next few weeks or “the fire officer may go the next step” towards having the development evacuated, writes Michael Clifford.

More than 100 home-owners in the 250-unit Bru Na Sionna development in Shannon, Co Clare, have been told that the total bill for remedial work on fire safety deficits could be €2.25m, but that the local authority fire officer is demanding a schedule of works be set out by March 10.

The owners were called to a meeting last week to update them on the progress since they were told last December about the extent of the work required and the possibility of evacuation.

The meeting, at the Oakwood Arms hotel in the town, was told that only 10% of the required funds has been paid since it was agreed to raise an initial €1.25m towards the works at the management company’s AGM in December.

“If there isn’t an improvement on the 10% soon the money will begin to run out,” one of the directors at the management company John Callinan told the meeting.

A number of homeowners replied that they simply didn’t have the money. One man who lives with his family in a three-bed duplex in the development said he went to his bank manager last December but was told he could not have a loan on the basis that he may lose his home anyway.

The building firm which constructed the development, Paddy Burke builders, has gone into receivership but the receiver has possession of around 40 apartments. The meeting was told that the receiver was informed of the charge to all owners last December but has not contributed anything towards the fund.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner afterwards the solicitor for the management company Conor Glendon said he is precluded by law from saying who had or had not paid, but that the management company could issue High Court proceedings against any party that does not meet its obligations.

“We’re continuing to do the work and meeting the fire officer’s deadlines,” Mr Glendon said.

An old for sale sign at the Bru na Sionna Estate. The total bill for remedial work on fire safety deficits could be €2.25m.

“We didn’t expect all the money in at this stage, a number of owners have said they want to pay but understandably it’s going to take time to get money together so non-payment isn’t indicative of people’s unwillingness to pay.”

He said that the directors of the company are in the same difficult position as all the owners and that generally people recognise that they will have to pay if they want the works done.

Some owners questioned why fire marshals had been installed since last July yet they were only told the extent of the serious problems in December.

Mr Glendon said that once it was discovered there were defects, fire marshals were installed as a precaution until the extent of the damage could be assessed, which was finally confirmed in December.

“It was an extraordinary step to take and an expensive one but our primary concern was for safety,” he told the Irish Examiner.

A number of owners expressed outrage at the self-assessment regulatory system that was in place when Bru Na Sionna was built between 2005 and 2007. They were told that the fire safety certificates which they had received for their properties were “aspirational”, with the certs issued at the outset of the building rather than as proof that the homes were actually built according to the fire safety standards.

As previously reported by this paper, the extent of the fire safety deficits were only discovered last year during preparation for litigation between the management company and the receiver for Paddy Burke over who had responsibility for completing works in the common areas.

The Anglo Irish bank loans used to fund the building of Bru Na Sionna were taken over by Nama, which in turn sold them onto the vulture fund Promentoria, a subsidiary of Cerberus.

- Irish Examiner

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