Fire safety defects uncovered in one of the State's largest housing developments

Fire safety defects uncovered in one of the State's largest housing developments

Phoenix Park Racecourse is the largest development in the State. Pictures: Moya Nolan

Fire safety defects have been uncovered in one of the largest housing developments in the State following the purchase of €60m worth of the homes by a major build-to-rent investor. 

The development at the old racecourse in Dublin’s Phoenix Park is due to include over 2,300 homes when it is completed. The defects relate to the first phase which was built between 2006 and 2008.

The Irish Examiner has learned that up to 550 apartments are affected by major deficiencies in fire stopping in the common areas of the apartment blocks. There are also defects in the individual apartments, for which individual owners are wholly responsible. 

Owners have been told by the management company Phoenix Park Racecourse Development (PPRD) that they will also have to pay for the remedial work in the common areas in order to make the buildings safe. 

 A fire officer has instructed apartment owners to conduct remedial work in a tight timeframe under threat of the issuing of a fire safety order which could necessitate evacuation.
A fire officer has instructed apartment owners to conduct remedial work in a tight timeframe under threat of the issuing of a fire safety order which could necessitate evacuation.

Dublin Fire Brigade has confirmed that the fire officer has not been informed of the defects. In recent similar cases, the fire officer has instructed apartment owners to conduct remedial work in a tight timeframe under threat of the issuing of a fire safety order which could necessitate evacuation, as happened in Priory Hall in north Dublin in 2011.

The developer of the Phoenix Park Racecourse, Flynn & O’Flaherty, is still on site overseeing further phases of the development but has told the affected owners that they could see no basis to get involved in the cost of fixing the defects as “the apartment blocks were completed approximately 18 years ago”. 

Legally, the developer is liable for defective work for only seven years after completion. 

However, the defects were only discovered in 2021 following the purchase of 146 homes by the build-to-rent investor fundIres Reit. The fund conducted an audit following the purchase which uncovered the defects in both its newly acquired units and the common areas. Ires Reit paid an average of €411,000 per apartment for 146 homes, 120 of which were built in phase one.

A spokesperson for the fund confirmed the defects in its apartments and says it has kept tenants fully informed of what has unfolded.

“As part of our acquisition due diligence, we identified that some apartments would need to have safety measures upgraded to ensure that they are in line with fire safety standards,” a spokesperson said.

“Ires undertook a comprehensive fire safety enhancement programme across the relevant apartments and this work was promptly completed, ensuring that individual apartments are now in line with fire safety standards.” 

The spokesperson added that additional health and safety checks have been made “as well as further communication on evacuation routes and general fire safety good practice".

A series of questions submitted to Flynn & O’Flaherty and the agent managing the development, Wyse Property Management, did not receive any acknowledgement or reply despite repeated attempts to contact both. 

Wyse, which is representing the owners of the phase one development in efforts to have the defects remediated, is also the property agent for the other phases built by Flynn & O’Flaherty.

 The developer is liable for defective work for only seven years after completion.
The developer is liable for defective work for only seven years after completion.

The racecourse development was given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanála in 2003 following protracted objections over its size but Flynn & O'Flaherty agreed to a number of conditions attached to the building of 2,314 new homes. 

Phase one was completed in 2008 but following the financial crash the later phases were delayed and got under way in the last decade.

A working group report published in July estimated that 80% of the apartments built between 1991 and 2013, the period when self-certification applied in construction, have fire safety defects, water ingress, or structural safety issues or a combination of all three. 

The estimated cost to the State of a remedial scheme is €2.8bn. An inter-governmental department group is currently devising the design for a remedial scheme, including who will be able to apply and whether it will include payment for remedial work already completed on behalf of owners.

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