€5m land sale at risk by squatters' rights claim

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

A man is putting a planned €5m sale of lands in Co Meath at risk by claiming adverse possession over part of them, a developer has claimed before the Commercial Court.

The lands near Dunshaughlin, which are zoned residential, were bought in late 2016 as investment lands from a fund by Colum Peters, Brian Peters and Noel Clarke, Colum Peters, a developer, of County Club, Dunshaughlin, said in an affidavit.

He claims they became registered owners in January 2017 and an adverse possession claim by Patrick Delaney, former owner of the lands, which was lodged with the Property Registration Authority of Ireland (PRAI), is holding up a sale of the lands along with other lands.

The three purchasers have brought proceedings against Mr Delaney and their counsel Brian Murray SC told Mr Justice Robert Haughton on Monday there was agreement to mediate the dispute.

His side also wanted the case transferred to the Commercial Court so it would be fast-tracked if the mediation does not resolve the dispute, he said.

Raymond Delahunt BL, for Mr Delaney, said their concern was to minimise costs and he urged the outcome of the mediation be awaited before any entry of the proceedings in the Commercial Court. 

The plaintiffs application was preemptive as the mediation parameters had yet to be agreed, the PRAI claim was not yet decided, and his side was anxious not to get embroiled in litigation on several fronts, he said.

The judge said he would enter the proceedings in the Commercial Court list but would make only minimalist directions pending the result of the mediation.

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In his affidavit, Colum Peters said Mr Delaney had owned the lands but sold them in September 2005. Mr Delaney's claim was that, on the same day he sold the lands, he went back into adverse possession of them and has had adverse possession since.

There was "no factual basis whatsoever" for the adverse possession claim, Mr Peters said. Even if there was, Mr Delaney could not, in law, be in adverse possession as against the plaintiffs because they had acquired the lands from a mortgagee in possession, Promontoria (Aran) Ltd, he said. A squatter's rights cannot affect an existing mortgage, it was claimed.

It was in the context of preparing contracts for the sale of the lands his side discovered in May 2018 Mr Delaney had lodged an application with the PRAI, he added. 

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