Watch: Residents facing eviction in Cork vow to fight vulture fund

Residents facing mass eviction from a city apartment block have vowed to defy their notices to quit.

Protesters outside Leeside Apartments on Batchelors Quay, Cork, last night. The 78-unit complex is home to many young families. Pic: Eddie O'Hare

The tenants of the Leeside Apartments complex in Cork, which is earmarked for a €3m refurbishment, plan to write en mass to the landlord claiming the notices are invalid. The pledge came after they protested outside the Bachelor’s Quay complex last night. More protests are expected.

The residents are being supported by Threshold, the housing advice agency.

Resident Aimee O’Riordan said mass evictions of this scale cannot be tolerated during a housing crisis.

“Soundbites and sympathetic speeches are not good enough,” she said. “We need urgent action and we need these loopholes closed entirely until more housing stock is provided.”

Another resident, Dorota Akon, said expecting tenants to find housing within the two- or three-month notice period is almost impossible.

“Families and ordinary people are being priced out of the market. When loopholes are left open, vulture funds will find a way,” she said.

Resident Aimee O’Riordan: ‘Soundbites and sympathetic speeches are not good enough. We need urgent action.’

The 78-unit complex was bought in October by Lugus Capital, which is acting for the international vulture fund Bain Capital, which owns the landlord company. Lugus says the refurbishment is necessary to bring the building in line with fire safety regulations. Notices to quit have been served on 23 residential tenants. A further 41 student leases for the current college term are due to end next month. Lugus insists the landlord is complying with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

Last night’s protest came as the Residential Tenancies Board published guidelines on what constitutes ‘substantial change’ in rented properties for the purposes of exemptions from rent pressure zone measures, but the guidelines also relate to what constitutes ‘substantial refurbishment’ when it is used as grounds for termination of a tenancy.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry welcomed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s confirmation that rules on “substantial refurbishment” will be tightened soon.

Further protests are expected at Leeside Apartments as residents turn their attention to the vulture fund behind the evictions.

“However, what it clearly needed is legislation which doesn’t simply prevent evictions on grounds of minor refurbishment, but prevents them also on grounds of refurbishment being used as an excuse to change the tenant profile and radically hike rents,” said Mr Barry.

Solidarity city councillor Fiona Ryan said such loopholes should be closed, and the evictions banned until the housing crisis eases.

“Otherwise, we have the certainty of more families falling into homeless services in order to facilitate landlords’ greed,” she said.

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