Homeowners face court action over remedial works

By Michael Clifford

Owner-occupiers in a Co Clare estate where some houses have major fire safety defects have been told by their management company to pay up for remedial work or face court action.

A number of the owners in the Bru na Sionna estate in Shannon have received a solicitor’s letter in recent weeks from their own management company demanding up to €7,000 as a first instalment for the works that have been agreed with the county fire officer.

The letters included a sheet outlining the legal costs involved in court actions. The sheet sets out various costs including “cost of proceeding to judgement in the district court up to €15,000”.

The solicitor’s letter instructed owners to make the payment within 14 days or “we anticipate instructions to issue district court proceedings for the debt. Any such proceedings will involve further costs and interest charges for which you will be reliable.”

Owners who have spoken to the Irish Examiner say they are outraged at the letters and regard the legal costs sheet as a threat. The defects were uncovered last year in preparation for a legal action between the estate’s management company and a receiver for the assets of the builder of the estate, Paddy Burke.

A schedule of works was agreed with the county fire officer in order to stave off the threat of a fire safety order that might necessitate evacuation of the 240-unit estate.

The cost of the remedial work is estimated at up to €2.25m. A number of the owners say they don’t have the money and are worried that the full extent of the defects has not been uncovered. Last February, it was revealed that only around 10% of owners had paid for the works. It is unclear how many have since made payments.

Lorraine Carew, who owns an apartment with her husband, described the approach of the management company as “bullyboy tactics”. “They are making us pay for the mistakes we had nothing to do with. We’re not investors, we don’t have the funds to throw at the problem.”

Rastislav Ondik, who bought his apartment in 2014, says he is shocked at the lack of transparency.

I was surprised that four years after we buy our home we are told there are problems with fire safety. I was paying the service charge as normal every year and now I get it with a bill for €7,500. I need to know what I’m paying for and I need to know that the problem is going to get fixed.”

Last December at the AGM for the management company it was agreed that the cost of the remedial works would be added as a supplementary payment into the annual service charge.

A series of questions submitted to Quinn management, which is employed by the management company for Bru Na Sionna, has not had a response. There was no response either from the solicitor employed by the management company.

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