The extent of fire safety defects in a block of 39 apartments in Herberton, Rialto, has yet to be discovered, Dublin city councillors have been told.
Dublin City Council bought the block, built on the site of the former Fatima Mansions flat complex near the Grand Canal, from Kennedy Wilson in lieu of social housing provision in the US real estate firm’s premium apartment schemes at Capital Dock and Clancy Quay.
The apartment swap was agreed in February 2019 but ownership of the apartments was not transferred to the council until August 2022.
The Herberton apartments were, however, offered to prospective tenants from January of this year. Tenants were told at the time that “maintenance works” needed to be completed on the block before they could be allocated. However, in recent days the council said “extensive” fire and safety works were needed which could result in significant delays in the homes being available for occupation.
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Councillors were on Wednesday told that more exploratory works would be required to identify the extent of the fire issues in the block.
“Clearly as has been outlined there are some fire safety issues which need to be resolved here,” the council’s director of service Derek Kelly said. “Some opening up works have been done in one of the units to see the extent, but that’s just one unit, and from that they have to extrapolate – is that going to be same? They have to go into each unit, and that’s going to take a bit of time.” The council was moving to get this work done as quickly as possible, he said. “We don’t want to drag this out any longer than we have to, but the works do need to be done.”
The assistant manager for the south central area, Bruce Phillips, pointed out that the apartment block was “second hand” and had already been lived in for up to 20 years.
“They are between 15 to 20 years old at this stage and had been lived in and had been used. The city council is taking this opportunity, now that they are vacant, to do some work on them and to bring them up to the current-day standards because this is the only opportunity we will get to do this major refurbishment needed.”
People should not be “unduly concerned” about the fire safety issues, Mr Phillips said. “It is not solely focused on fire issues – there are other remedial works that need to be done here.”
Labour councillor Darragh Moriarty said it was council officials who had raised the fire safety concern.
“I don’t think anybody is trying to be alarmist and make a bigger issue out of this than it is, but the city council’s own language in the letter to prospective tenants mentioned fire safety and compliance issues. That’s your own language I think that would make anybody concerned.”
Sinn Féin councillor Maire Devine said the council appeared to have “taken its eye off the ball” by not confirming the building was fire-safety compliant when the deal was done with Kennedy Wilson in 2019.
Kennedy Wilson has said that, at the time of the agreement in February 2019, it had already addressed fire-related issues and the apartments were “ready for occupation” and fully refurbished when offered to the council.
“The fire-related work was signed off by [Kennedy Wilson’s] specialist fire consultants, and DCC as purchaser would have had sight of and the benefit of these certificates of compliance at the time of acquisition,” a spokesman for the firm said. The council had “the opportunity to conduct full due diligence on the units prior to acquisition” and the company had received “no correspondence with DCC on such matters since the transaction closed” in August, he said.