A High Court judge has held that some 20 people who have lived for several years in two Dublin properties are in contempt of court due to their ongoing refusal to leave the properties.
Mr Justice Mark Sanfey said that he had considerable sympathy for the occupants of 31 Richmond Avenue, Fairview, and 21 Little Mary Street, Dublin 2.
Some of the occupants, which includes young children, had claimed to have been living there for 15 years, the judge noted.
While court orders must be complied with, he adjourned the case to the end of the month.
By the time the matter returns before the court he said he wanted to see progress being made by the occupants in terms of securing alternative accommodation.
Last November the High Court made orders in favour of Pepper Finance Corporation DAC requiring the occupants to vacate the properties.
Arising out their failure to leave Pepper has said it wants orders for attachment – arrest – of those respondents represented in court for the purpose of being brought before the court.
Businessman Jerry Beades is the registered owner, but not an occupant, of the mortgaged properties at 31 Richmond Avenue, Fairview, and 21 Little Mary Street, Dublin 2, both made subject of High Court possession orders in 2008, affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2014.
The possession orders arose from default on loans made by IIB Bank and sold, respectively, to KBC Bank, Beltany Property Finance and, last August, to Pepper.
Pepper claims some €2.3 million is outstanding on the loans and, as a result of the possession orders, the occupants, who include a number of Romanian nationals and two young children, cannot rely on lease or rental agreements between them and Mr Beades.
While some occupants claim to have paid rent over years to Mr Beades, there is no evidence, since the possession orders were made, that Mr Beades has paid rent to anyone, including Pepper, the Court was previously told.
In his ruling on whether the occupants are in contempt of court Mr Justice Sanfey said that the occupants are in deliberate breach of valid orders made last November, to vacate the properties.
However, the orders to be made on foot of this finding require careful consideration, he said.
The judge also noted the reluctance of the plaintiff to see action taken against the occupants given the unfortunate position in which the occupants have found themselves.
“It was suggested – with some justice – that they have been caught in the middle between the plaintiff and Mr. Beades, and that they have been living in the properties and discharging “rent” to Mr Beades as it fell due, oblivious to the fact that an order for possession of the properties had been granted against Mr. Beades as long ago as 2008.” he said.
The court also noted the difficulties that the occupants found themselves in, and their inability to secure alternative accommodation due to the Covid19 pandemic.
The occupants claimed that they would be made homeless if they leave.
However, there was no basis in law upon which the occupants could establish a right to remain in either premise.
The mortgagee has had an order for possession in its favour since 2008.
Since at least that time, Mr. Beades was not capable of creating a landlord and tenant relationship and granting possession to any prospective tenant, the judge said.
No consent to any current tenancy has been furnished by Pepper, which does not want to enter into a landlord and tenant relationship with the occupants.
There is no basis upon which it could be forced to do so, the judge said.
The judge said that while the occupants must comply with court orders, he was prepared to give them more time to source new places to live.
He adjourned the matter to the end of August to allow the parties an opportunity to address the court as to the appropriate orders to be made.
He said that by the end of the month he expects that significant progress will be made on the part of the occupants demonstrating their compliance with the orders.
If there was no progress on this front, the reliefs sought in the contempt application will be granted, he concluded