Residents facing eviction protest at the Dáil

Residents of a city apartment block are taking their fight against mass eviction to the streets tonight after the Taoiseach branded as “cruel” the serving of notices to quit in the run-up to Christmas.

Slawek Wolowski, with Aimee O'Riordan, residents from Leeside Apartments in Cork City, who face eviction. Picture: Leah Farrell

The Leeside Apartments residents in Cork City, who protested outside the Dáil yesterday, have formed an action group and plan to ramp up their campaign against the planned evictions with a protest outside the complex on Bachelor’s Quay this evening.

And the residents say they have received advice which suggests a raft of notices to quit served on them may be invalid.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry, who yesterday raised the residents’ plight directly with the Taoiseach during Leader’s questions in the Dáil, repeated his calls on the Government to tighten legislation which allows mass evictions on grounds of refurbishment.

“This is a vulture fund that has gotten its claws into this building. They’re putting 23 households, including young families, out on their ear. There aren’t homes to be had for these people,” he said.

The apartment block was bought in October by Lugus Capital, which is effectively acting as local agent on behalf of the international vulture fund Bain Capital, founded by former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who stood for the US Republican Party against Barack Obama in 2012, and which owns the landlord company, Larea Fa Fund 11.

Lugus Capital and its directors are the Irish property management company which seeks out investment opportunities for the vulture fund and manage local assets on its behalf.

The property was advertised earlier this year as having a rental income of €676,678 per annum with the capacity to deliver income of €970,000, with a potential 9.3% yield and possibly more if a “full refurbishment” was undertaken.

Lugus Capital said as part of their acquisition of the complex, they carried out a full structural survey and fire safety inspection.

It said the apartments are currently not in compliance with their fire certificates and that a full refurbishment is necessary to bring the building up to modern standards and to maintain the safety of the residents.

The building has now been earmarked for a €3m refurbishment, with works due to start next month.

“All residential tenants have been issued notices, with full notice periods corresponding to the length of their tenancy. The landlord is fully complying with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004,” it said.

The company declined to respond to further queries from the Irish Examiner

.

But Mr Barry dismissed as “nonsense” the idea that fire safety is a priority for these companies.

“The agenda for these vulture capitalists is to get people out of that building by any means necessary in order to refurbish, charge much higher rents, and squeeze the absolute maximum amount of profit possible out of the apartments.

“Threatening large numbers of people with eviction doesn’t cause ruthless capitalists like this to lose a minute’s sleep and residents need to get organised to stand up to this agenda.”

In response to questions from Mr Barry, the Taoiseach said landlords should not serve notices to quit on tenants in the run-up to Christmas.

“I think it is particularly cruel to seek to give somebody a notice to quit or an eviction notice in the run-up to Christmas and I absolutely condemn that,” Leo Varadkar said.

“Because, at the very least, if the apartment block does genuinely need substantial refurbishment, I’m sure that can be left to the New Year and the people who live there could be given adequate and reasonable time to find new homes. And I know how difficult it is for people to find new accommodation in the current environment. If substantial refurbishment is not genuinely required, and is not urgent, I think those eviction notices should be withdrawn, and people who live in that development be given adequate time to find new accommodation.”

Mr Varadkar also said Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has committed to clarifying, by next week, the rules around “substantial refurbishment” so that it can’t be used by landlords as a mechanism to evict people and then increase the rents.

But Mr Barry’s said the Taoiseach’s response wasn’t good enough given that the proposed €3m Leeside Apartments refurbishment work is not minor.

Mr Varadkar said there are occasions when buildings need refurbishment but he said he didn’t know if the refurbishments, in this case, were genuinely needed or not.

“But either way, I don’t think anyone should be evicted with such short notice in the run-up to Christmas,” he said.



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