Irish Times Property Clinic 28th day of September2023.
Publishing Date; Thursday the 28th day of September 2023.
Q My mum bought a new apartment in a small development in South Dublin. When the estate agent was showing her the apartment, they said there was broadband, and she could choose any provider she wanted.
Problems arose after she and the other residents moved in about a year ago and attempted to get broadband. The engineers couldn’t find any cables to connect to. The apartments are wired but there are no cables or connection from the apartment block to the broadband connection from the street. The original developer went bankrupt building the development and a receiver took over and finished it. The receiver claims they have done everything they needed to for the apartments to be sold and the lack of broadband is not their problem. Is this correct?
The residents have all complained to the management company multiple times and engineers have come out and done a survey. But after the survey was done the residents have essentially got nothing but radio silence in response from all three installers. Whoever has to give them approval to start, doesn’t seem be to doing anything.
Broadband is a vital service, and this is not a remote area. Is there any Government regulation or law that broadband should be available in a property? Or does the receiver or an internet provider have an obligation to install the necessary cables and connect the development to broadband?
A. Just to address the question of rights first. Internet access is not yet classed as a human right, but rather as an instrument to facilitate the right to the freedom of expression. The United Nations High Commissioner recently said at the Humans Rights Council that the internet is seen as a privilege rather than a human right and efforts to reinforce universal access should be made. However, it seems it will be a long time before the right to the internet will be enshrined in law.
That said it beggars belief that a development in the capital city of a first-world country could be constructed without the proper internet infrastructure.
However, it also shines a light on an area where consumer protection could be stronger when it comes to buying a property.
The performance of a contract is a legal matter and any queries in this regard should be directed to the solicitor who represented your mother during the purchase of the property for remedy.
The response of the owners’ management company (OMC) is puzzling. One would imagine that it is in the interests of all members of the OMC – including the directors – to have internet services provided. Direct questions need to be put to them. It may also be worth checking to see if there are any connections between the directors and the receiver which could potentially pose a conflict of interest.
The directors of an OMC should not operate on a them and us, directors versus owners basis, but rather as a harmonised entity, working together for the common good of the OMC. Ensuring fair representation of all the owners on the board of directors is vital for any OMC to carry out its duties in a fair and reasonable way.
It would appear this is far from the case in this development and your mother and the other residents should come together to ensure this issue is addressed. A chartered property and facility management surveyor would be able to give sound advice as to how to achieve this.
While there are other ways of ensuring internet connection – satellite or landline – there are drawbacks relating to cost and performance and I think getting clarity on the legal situation and then pursuing the issue with the OMC is the best course of action. In the final analysis it will come down to the cost and to who has to pay.
Paul Huberman FSCSI FRICS is a chartered property and facilities manager, and a Fellow of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
Author: Paul Huberman of H&H Property Management Consultants Ltd
Publish Date: 28/09/2023