Urgent fire safety upgrades to an apartment complex in Cork can be done without evicting residents, an expert report has suggested.
The residents of Leeside Apartments called last night on the complex owners, Lugus Capital, to withdraw the notices to quit which were issued before Christmas, and to move swiftly to implement the required upgrades.
Residents’ spokespersons Aimee O’Riordan and Gaston Behal said they and their neighbours want these fire safety improvements done as a matter of urgency, and they are willing to cooperate.
“But this report clearly shows that they can be completed without recourse to evictions,” they said. “The notices to quit should be withdrawn and the owners should enter into talks with the residents’ group to make arrangements for the fire safety work to take place.”
The apartment block was bought in October by Lugus Capital, which is effectively acting as local agent on behalf of the vulture fund Bain Capital, founded by former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Lugus Capital has said as part of its acquisition of the complex, it carried out a full structural survey and fire safety inspection of the building which established that the apartments are not in compliance with their fire certificates.
It said a full refurbishment is necessary to bring the building up to modern standards and to maintain residents’ safety.
More than 25 households are fighting eviction which Lingus says is necessary to facilitate a €3m refurbishment.
Solidarity TD for Cork North Central, Mick Barry, commissioned Kieran Spitere of Kieran Spitere Consulting Engineers to conduct an independent assessment of the building.
The report says the building’s fire prevention and protection measures fall far short of legal safety requirements and that significant work is required. It outlines 14 necessary and “urgent” changes, including an upgrade to doors in common areas, and assess and upgrade where necessary all apartment doors to fire-rated doors and an upgrade to the building’s emergency lighting systems, fire detection and alarm systems.
But crucially, it says that the works could be done without “huge disruption” to tenants and that tenants may have to be moved for a period of just “a week or so” to facilitate the works.
The report said the layout of the complex “lends itself well” to the work being undertaken in stages and adds that “such an approach would be assisted significantly by the fact that many units are already, or will be in the near future, vacant”.
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