What price the deal on Longboat Quay?

Michael Clifford details the troublesome situation facing the Longboat Quay apartment owners ahead of a crunch EGM today
What price the deal on Longboat Quay?

THE final notice of the EGM for Longboat Quay owners was sent out at 4pm last Friday.

The letter from the Longboat Quay Management Company set out that the proposed meeting would be held at 6.30pm today, but also included the following paragraph.

“Please note that this is a members only meeting which may be attended by members only or their valid proxies. Anyone else, friends, family, advisors will be politely turned away. We would kindly ask that you respect this.”

Why, one may well ask, the need for such restrictions at a meeting to discuss the spending of a large sum of public money on a matter of public safety?

There is a deal on the table for owners in the 298 unit development on Dublin’s Sir John Rogerson Quay. This, it is hoped, will finally resolve the fire safety issues that were first uncovered two and a half years ago, and are now the subject of a fire safety order which could necessitate evacuation by next May.

A statement issued yesterday by the Longboat Quay Management Company recommended the proposed settlement be accepted.

“Representatives of the Longboat Quay Management Company are pleased to announce that a proposed settlement has been reached toward remedying fire safety and roof repair works at Longboat Quay.

“From the outset our priority has always been to achieve a comprehensive and fair solution to this distressing situation that we have found ourselves in. We believe we have now achieved this objective.

The proposed settlement will be now put to the owners at an EGM scheduled for Monday 19 December. Management strongly advocate a yes vote and do so with the full backing of our legal advisors.”

Questions, however, remain on how the deal is being done, and how the interests of the owners, who bought their homes in good faith, is being served.

Longboat Quay was built by a Bernard McNamara company, Gendsong, in 2006. Gendsong went bust during the recession. The receiver had 18 units in Longboat Quay to dispose of in 2014 and employed a fire safety consultant to have a look at them.

He came back with bad news. There were major fire safety defects. Dublin fire brigade was contacted, and a partial evacuation of the 600 residents was required and it was agreed an upgraded fire alarm system be installed.

Following further investigation, the owners were told in September 2015 that remedial works costing €4.25m were required. Within days, the fire brigade had obtained a fire safety order from Dublin District Court. That requires the work to be done by May of next year or evacuation begins.

At the time, Dublin City Council and the receiver for Gendsong offered to pay some of the cost, but this would have left owners with a bill of €1.2m.

Things have moved on. The University of Ulster, which specialises in fire safety, got involved and the total bill for the fire safety remedial works is now estimated at €2.5m. That good news has been tempered by the uncovering of further problems with the roof in Longboat Quay, the cost of repair of which is estimated to be €1.3m.

So there is now an estimated bill of €3.7m. Under the deal on offer the council is putting up €1.85m and the receiver €1.25m, which will cover the fire safety works but not the roof bill. This will leave the owners with a shortfall, of possibly up to €1m, depending on whether there will be any payout from the structural insurer.

There are other issues. The common areas in Longboat Quay was owned by Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), which engaged in disastrous property development during the boom. Last year, the DDDA was reversed into Dublin City Council, delivering the council with a major headache — and bill — for which it bore no responsibility. Naturally, the council wants shot of the whole thing as fast and cheap as possible.

However, the deal on the table includes the provision: “Conveyance of all common areas will occur as a condition of the settlement agreement and on execution of the settlement agreement.”

In other words, if any other problems emerge, the owners have to sort it themselves. This, in a development that was sold as offering the added security of the involvement of a state body at the time of construction.

Longboat Quay has been a disaster. Bernard McNamara has said he or his company were not responsible for the many fire safety deficiencies that were uncovered. The receiver for McNamara’s company has had to fork out money that might otherwise have gone to pay the company’s creditors. Dublin City Council has been drawn into an affair not of its making or responsibility.

But most of all, the apartment owners who trusted that the State was ensuring proper standards applied to construction have been left with a situation that is costing money and major stress. A threat of evacuation still hangs over them. They face the prospect of forking out more money on homes that are still not safe and possibly unsellable in the short term. And now they’re being told to take the deal on the table as it’s the only one they’ll get.

While undertaking such a major life decision — deciding between a rock and a hard place — they have now been told they must attend the crunch meeting alone, with no advisors present.

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