Courts

Monday 28 July 2014

Bank's demands 'forced us to emigrate to New Zealand', couple claims

Tim Healy

Published 16/05/2014|15:34

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A COUPLE claimed a bank's approach to a demand they repay €1.1m in property loans immediately was a major factor in forcing them to emigrate to New Zealand, the High Court heard.

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Sean and Pauline Fortune, formerly of Rathdowney, Co Laois, claimed Ulster Bank Ireland failed to make a lawful demand for repayment of the money and that the bank's paperwork was incomplete and inconsistent with the loan agreements they entered.

 

Yesterday, Mr Justice  Bernard Barton ruled the Fortunes had no arguable defence to the bank's claim for judgment in relation to €912,000 of around €1.1m sought.   He found however there was an issue which needs to be determined at another hearing over a separate loan to the couple for €190,000.

 

The judge said the couple, who have three children, obtained the loans in 2004 and 2006, including for the purchase and sale of serviced house sites in Errill, Co Laois, and for the purchase and renovation of  a property called "The Barracks" in Rathdowney.

 

They got into serious financial difficulties, were unable to meet their repayments and the bank brought court proceedings against them in 2011, the judge said.

 

 They made proposals to deal with the debt by selling the Barracks for upto €390,000 and by handing over to the bank the site in Errill with its planning permission for 50 houses.   They also proposed selling a part of the same Errill site, with a disused house on it, for upto €40,000.

 

The bank sought to enter judgment against them but the Master of the High Court struck out the case.  The bank then appealed that decision to the High Court.

 

In opposing the bank's action, the couple argued it was not entitled to judgment because of discrepancies in the loan documentation.

 

They argued the larger loan, of €912,000, related to the purchase of the housing land and was to be repaid within a year from the sale of sites.  But, they said, the sites remained unsold due to planning difficulties which the bank itself had contributed to by the way it dealt with the couple's affairs.

 

They claimed the bank's approach to the debt, before starting its legal action, was confusing, as was the paperwork it put forward to support its action.

 

They asserted that this approach was "a major factor in forcing the defendants (Fortunes) to emigrate", the judge noted.

 

The bank rejected those claims and said there was no factual basis for any defence of the claim for judgment.

 

Mr Justice Barton said he would enter judgment for the larger loan and directed a hearing concerning a similar judgment application for the smaller loan.

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