A mother and her four children, including five-week-old twins, are among 12 residents left without homes following a fire in a block of seven apartments close to Cork City centre last weekend.
Kristina Jagelovica, who also has a 17-month-old and a 16-year-old, was reportedly told by the HSE Emergency Housing Unit that she must seek her own alternative emergency accommodation following the blaze.
Her babies were treated for smoke inhalation after the fire in the early hours of last Saturday. Another tenant was also treated.
Ms Jagelovica was asleep with her partner, Liutauras Dociu, and their family in their third-floor apartment when the alarm was raised.
Her mother, who was visiting to help with the twins, spotted smoke pouring through the floorboards and raised the alarm.
All tenants were successfully evacuated from the building.
“If my mum didn’t get up to go to the toilet, this could have been a big tragedy,” said Ms Jagelovica, who is originally from Latvia.
The fire was understood to have begun in a basement flat at the property in Parkview Terrace, Wellington Rd.
Firemen attending the scene called for an evacuation of the building due to unsafe conditions.
The issuing of a fire certificate for the premises was not required as the building pre-dates 1991.
Tenants were allowed to enter the building briefly on Saturday to gather belongings. The building was then secured to prevent entry while fire officials conducted an inspection.
Ms Jagelovica’s family were temporarily offered space in a studio apartment in a separate building owned by the same landlord.
“She spoke to a man in another apartment and he slept on his sofa so we could all share a small bedroom,” Ms Jagelovica said.
She and her family stayed there until yesterday.
Along with other tenants, they approached Cork City Council’s housing department, where they were told to attend the HSE’s Homeless Unit.
“The HSE told me to look for a hostel myself and that they would pay,” she said.
She and her family have found a room for three nights in Jury’s Hotel.
“But it’s going to be busy for the weekend, so I don’t know where we can go,” said Ms Jagelovica. “Maybe we’ll end up in the car.”
Another tenant, Iain MacClean, said he was shocked at a “heartless system and lack of care” for evacuees who faced homelessness.
“It’s amazing that there’s no emergency accommodation for a situation like ours,” he said. Mr MacClean is currently sleeping on his friend’s sofa.
Other tenants include single people and two couples.
The landlord, Norma O’Sullivan, said she has been trying to assist her tenants to find alternative accommodation.
“I’ve tried and they know that, and it’s just impossible,” Mrs O’Sullivan said. “I’d have all my tenants back in the morning if I could.”
She confirmed the building was due to be inspected by fire consultants to ensure the building was safe for habitation.
However, she said it was not clear whether or not she was responsible for rehousing her tenants until works had been carried out on the building.
“I’ve been on to the Private Rental Tenancies Board, and they weren’t able to answer me as to how to proceed,” she said.
However, southern area director of housing charity Threshold, Niall Horgan explained that if there is no liability for the fire on the part of the landlord, “the contract is frustrated and the landlord isn’t obliged to provide alternative accommodation”.
Mr Horgan said if a landlord is at fault, they would have to arrange accommodation for evacuated tenants.
“We suggest that tenants go to their local authority, but also stay in communication with their landlord for updates,” he said.
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