OWNERS of certain apartments in Kildare are allegedly being threatened with the prospect of having their vehicles clamped as a way of ensuring they pay maintenance fees that have risen by over 80%.
Speaking to the Kildare Nationalist, one individual – who wished to remain anonymous – alleged that maintenance fees are decided without discussion and that a sharp increase was introduced this year by the property management company. A number of people withdrew some of their fees, she said, “because things weren’t done around the place.
“Like, they charge you for grass and it’s not being cut”.
She said that the decision was made to bring in clamping and she alleged that they were told at a meeting that it was “brought in to make people pay”.
“Basically, we were told if we were any way in arrears… first of all it was €1,000 and then it was dropped, in a second letter within a week, to €400 – [if] you’re in arrears of €400 you wouldn’t get a parking permit to park outside your own home… I either have to pay up my fees fully or park my car elsewhere,” she said. “There’s no issue with parking, there’s nobody blocking anybody, there’s nobody parking in a space that they wouldn’t normally park in… most mornings in my part of the apartments there’s 6/7 spaces free. So there’s no issue with parking and [they know] that. But [they have] brought in these clampers now, the signs are up all over the place.”
The woman alleged that money paid to the parking management firm was never declared “anywhere in the new budget” and that when questioned it was explained that it “went in under a different expense.” Once a year they get a budget, she said, and are basically told “this is what you have to pay” – it’s broken down into items such as gardening, cleaning of gutters, legal fees and so on.
When asked whether she regards the threat of clamping as intimidation, she replied “Definitely, yes. I haven’t slept, I’ve been sick, stressed, off work, getting up every morning at 4 o’clock [to] see am I clamped so I can go to work… It’s taken over my whole life, fighting them, trying to get things done… I bought my home, I want to go home in the evenings, not have threatening letters through the door, stress, or anything else, and be able to park outside my own home.”
Earlier this year she contacted South Kildare TD Fiona O’Loughlin, who has raised concerns in the Dáil regarding property management companies and the powers they have to collect fees from apartment owners.
“I raised the issue of property management companies and how they are bullying and intimidating a number of apartment owners in Kildare. Aside from this unacceptable behaviour, owners are also being told that the maintenance fees they must pay are being doubled,” Deputy O’Loughlin stated recently. “The complete lack of regulation in this area leaves apartment owners vulnerable to unscrupulous management companies and legislation is urgently needed to address the matter.
“My colleague Deputy Darragh O’Brien introduced a Bill dealing with the issue of property management companies and this Bill has now passed Second Stage. It is imperative that this becomes legislation as soon as possible in order to protect the owners of apartments going forward.”
The woman who spoke to the Kildare Nationalist about her experiences remarked that “when you buy an apartment, you should be able to park outside your own home, not be intimidated to pay fees” and stated that fees would be paid “if things were done around the place”. She alleged that people in severe arrears aren’t being engaged with and it’s a case of “all or nothing”, and that the issue could affect people renting accommodation if the owners haven’t paid up.
She also noted that she wants to get the message out there about the lack of regulation on management companies, and that there doesn’t seem to be anybody, like an ombudsman, that they can turn to with queries.
“It’s different if you’re up the town and you get clamped, you were illegally parked, fine – you deserve it,” she said. “But not outside your own home.”