By Michael Clifford
Up to 240 homeowners and investors in a Co. Clare estate have been told to find €2.25m to pay for fire safety and other defects in their homes or face evacuation.
Defects in the Bru Na Sionna estate in Shannon were discovered by engineers retained when the developer went into receivership. The fire officer for Clare County Council got involved last November and has set out a schedule of work to be started in March.
The Irish Examiner reports the estate was built between 2005 and 2007 by Paddy Burke Builders, once one of the largest developers in the Mid-West, but the company went into receivership in 2010.
The estate is made up of homeowners and investors in the buy-to-let sector, some of whom own multiple properties. Much of the development qualified under the Section 23 tax-efficient scheme that operated at the time and attracted a large number of investors.
The homeowners have been told that they must provide an initial payment of €7,000 per three-bedroom duplex by this week in order to pay the first tranche for the remedial work.
However, a number of houses in the estate of duplex and apartments have been sold in the last year and some of the buyers are questioning when knowledge of the defects came to light.
One homeowner, Rabii Hendoui, finalised the purchase of his three-bedroom duplex on December 19, the day after most of the other homeowners were officially told of the problems.
Mr Hendoui had rented for five years in the estate with his wife and two children before buying the home.
“I made the final payment on December 8 and signed the last contract on 19 December,” he said.
“When I brought it up, they say that I was living here before and that I know what the problem is but nobody ever told me.”
The first time the owners were officially informed of the need to raise €2.25m was at the management company’s annual general meeting on December 18. All homeowners were officially informed in writing in a letter the following day.
“In the course of the circuit court proceedings between the receivers of Paddy Burke Builders and your management company, engineers were employed on both sides to ascertain the items that required remedial work,” the management company letter stated.
The letter goes on to say that in the middle of last year engineers identified areas that needed to be addressed and later the fire officer for Clare county council became involved.
“The situation is wholly unpalatable for all and this was vehemently expressed at the AGM. We are, however, in a desperate situation,” the owners were informed.
A statement from the management company in response to queries from the Irish Examiner pointed out that the directors had no role in the building of the estate, are all volunteers and own properties in Bru Na Sionna themselves.
The company confirmed that a fire inspection was carried out in November by the fire authority and a subsequent agreement to carry out works, which included the installation of 24-hour security on the estate.
“The directors of the management company are owners themselves in various different blocks across the estate.
“They understand the significant financial burden being placed on each unit owner in relation to contributing to service charges, however in light of all other options available felt this matter had to be discussed and approved if appropriate at the AGM,” according to the statement.
The AGM voted by a large majority to raise the funds required for the remedial works, the statement added.