Landlord agrees to evacuate residents from flats over fire safety concerns
The owners of a Dublin property have consented to a High Court granting an order requiring the residents, including a mother and her four young children, to evacuate the building due to "serious" fire safety concerns.
Dublin City Council sought the order in respect of the building located in located at 3 Kelly's Row, Dublin 1, and including 20 Dorset Street in Dublin's north inner city, which contains four flats.
Yesterday, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, granted an application by the Council, to serve short notice of the proceedings on Frank Chatham and Joseph Simpson, owners of the property.
Today, when the matter returned before the court, the Judge was informed the owners were consenting to the order sought by the council.
One of the owners, Mr Joseph Simpson who represented himself in court, said while he had no problem with the order he disputed certain claims made on behalf of DCC.
He said he rejected claims including that nothing had been done by the owners since they were served with a fire safety notice prohibiting the use of the flats in March.
He said arising out of that notice he and his co-owner asked the tenants to leave the building so they could comply with fire safety requirements, and they had stopped collecting rent.
However he said the tenants remained on the premises. He also rejected claims that the owners had refused to return deposits paid by the tenants.
He said that before they stopped collecting rent arrears had built up. He also said the tenants had been offered €600 each to leave. He also said the flats had been vandalised.
Last night some of the tenants told the Herald that the would be homeless if removed.
Lorraine Donovan (36) and her 18-year-old son Dean say they will be left on the street. The devastated single mother says she was woken to the sound of the "fire brigade knocking in the door" yesterday.
"We all had a note pinned on the door telling us where to go to get accommodation," she said, "but everywhere we go we are told they are full and can't take us.
"All the hotels we try say they are full, and we have no money for another deposit. What are we supposed to do?"
Ms Donovan said she will stay in the property if she cannot find alternative accommodation. But she claims she has been told that she will be "removed" if she hasn't vacated the premises by 11am today.
"I'm terrified. Where will me and my son go? What will we do with our stuff? There is a pregnant woman with four children living here what about them?
"I have been down the Parkgate Street every day looking to go on the homeless list but have had no luck there."
Dean says he is worried about his mum and he fears what will happen if the family are forced out on the street.
"All my stuff is in my room. What am I supposed to do with it - literally everything I own is there," he said.
Romanian national Luta Budica said he cannot find anywhere for himself and his family.
"We have no money and no one can take us. Maria has four children and one on the way. We have even tried for a place to live in Cork."
This morning, Mr Justice Kearns in granting the orders prohibiting the use of the premises for the purposes of accommodation said the health and safety of the residents was the courts "primary concern."
The Judge in reference to the provision of alternative accommodation for the tenants said that he did not want another Priory Hall on his hands.
The matter was adjourned to next week.
It is a four storey building accessed via Kelly's Row with a retail outlet on the ground floor of 20 Dorset Street which is not affected by the Council's application. There is no physical connection between that unit and the flats above it.
Fire brigade officers dealt with three incidents at the building since October 2014 and a fire safety notice took effect last March prohibiting use of the premises for residential/sleeping accommodation until specified measures have been taken to the satisfaction of the fire authority, Thomas Daly, of Dublin Fire Brigade's fire prevention section, said.
The electricity was disconnected earlier this month and the only access to and escape from the flats is via a single staircase which itself is in "an unsafe condition", he added in a sworn statement.
Mr Daly said, when he inspected the building earlier this week 11th, there was "no evidence of any fire safety measures at the building".
He considered the risk to persons in the event of a fire was "so serious" that use of the building should be immediately prohibited untuil measures outlined in the fire safety notice were taken "to reduce the risk to a reasonable level".
The owners of the property, Mr Chatham, Arch Villas, Greystones, Co Wicklow and Mr Simpson, Tara Green, Ballymoney, Co Wexford, were served with a fire safety notice on March 27th last, Mr Daly said.
Mr Simpson had written on May 1st the tenants were in the process of being moved from the premises, he said. Mr Simpson also alleged 95 per cent of the items in the fire safety notice had been covered in renovations of 2007, outstanding issues were being rectified and the fire brigade would be kept up to date, Mr Daly said.
Mr Daly said, when he inspected the building on May 11th last at the request of the fire brigade who were called to an incident there, he found the flats occupied and all flats "in use".
One of the occupants was a Romanian woman who said she had four children under six with her, another occupant said she lived there with her son and two other adult occupants would not give their full names.
Earlier, he said Dublin Fire Brigade reported, after they were called to the building last March when a small fire occurred in a first floor room which was extinguished by the residents, that families refused to leave the building.