‘The first 12 years were sleepless nights’: Apartment owners left with large bills for remedial works

‘I asked them where am I going to get the money... I paid for this out of savings for my funeral’

One of thousands of apartment owners across the State left with large bills for remedial works, Gabrielle Kavanagh is anxious about what further problems have yet to be discovered about her home.

Having been hit with an initial €5,332 bill to fix fire safety and balcony defects, she was told — along with several other buyers at Cathedral Court in Dublin 8 — to fork out €3,000 each for new hot water boilers. This was after a boiler leaked in the complex, resulting in all boilers being deemed a risk.

“I asked them: Where was I going to get the money? I told them this was my funeral savings, but they didn’t listen. I paid for this out of savings for my funeral,” she said.

“I work in a hospital and I’m not overly paid. I have to find all this money and I have to find an extra €2,000 a year for management charges.”


Ms Kavanagh is one of a number of owners of apartments in Cathedral Court who were impacted by serious balcony and fire safety defects identified at in their development of 104 apartments, built off Clanbrassil Street, by Sherborough Enterprises Limited (SEL) in 2006.

Apartments had sold for up to €575,000, with car parking spaces costing an additional €40,000. SEL retained 64 of the apartments, for use as luxury lettings.

In 2016 a building surveyor’s report found problems with a large number of balconies in the complex, while a fire safety survey in 2018 also found a number of fire-stopping shortcomings.

The report of a working group on defects in housing, commissioned by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and published on Thursday, says boomtime builders responsible for defective homes cannot be made to pay for remediation works which will cost billions of euro and take years to complete.

The report recommends that a central organisation provide assistance to owners’ management companies and apartment owners with remedial works, and a register of building professionals be established to carry these out.

Ms Kavanagh previously spoke to The Irish Times about what she felt was the unfairness of apartment owners being asked to pay for defects which she felt the developers should have fixed at their own cost. The defects left her “trapped” with limited options to sell the apartment. Now, she says, “we don’t know what we will be asked to pay for next”.

Micheál O’Reilly is the owner of an apartment in a small development at The Oaks, Lakepoint, in Mullingar Co Westmeath, which he bought to let in 2006.

A safety report commissioned by the owners allege numerous issues, including exposed gas pipework in the stairwells and since about 2010 insurance companies would no longer offer cover. When slates blew off the roof in recent years, owners had to pay out of their own pockets for damage to cars in the car park.

Mr O’Reilly was also in the invidious position that he had to rent the apartment to pay the mortgage. If he didn’t he said, the bank would have proceeded against him and all that entails. However, having someone in the apartment when he was aware of the defects “meant I was responsible for that person’s safety”.

When they were built, the apartments were selling for €155,000. If it was all fixed up now, he thinks it would make about €120,000. But he says, the owners estimate the remedial works would cost in the region of €100,000 per apartment.

“I have been chasing this for 16 years, the first 12 were sleepless nights until I got used to it,” he says.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist