Dunnes loses €1.13m rent appeal over two stores
Dunnes Stores has lost a Supreme Court challenge to a demand from the new owners of two Galway shopping centres that the retailer must pay €1.13m in unpaid rent and service charges.
Camiveo, a firm controlled by Dublin-based investment firm Signature Capital, was last year granted summary judgment in the High Court against Dunnes for the amount. The retailer was refused leave to defend.
Signature Capital was established by former Investec employees Ciaran McNamara and Enda Woods.
Its Camiveo vehicle has acquired two shopping centres in Galway - at Edward Square and Eyre Square.
It bought the Edward Square premises in 2013 for €27m and is thought to have paid over €23m last year for the Eyre Square centre.
Dunnes has an interest in three leases at the two shopping centres.
Camiveo told the High Court that it was entitled to the landlord's interest in those leases and therefore entitled to collect rent and service charges arising under the leases.
Last year, the High Court granted judgment in favour of Camiveo, and Dunnes subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court.
"Dunnes does not in any way question the validity of the relevant leases or, at least in broad terms, the obligation to pay the sums in question," noted the Supreme Court in its ruling.
"The narrow point on which Dunnes has rested its defence to these proceedings concerns a contention that Camiveo is not yet entitled to enforce the interest of the landlord under the leases in question or, perhaps, has not established an entitlement so to do," Supreme Court judge Justice Frank Clarke said in the ruling.
Dunnes was essentially arguing that while Camiveo had bought the two shopping centres, it had not yet been officially registered as the owner of them.
As such, Dunnes questioned whether or not Camiveo was entitled to enforce the lease until it was registered as the owner of the centres.
Justice Clarke said that while there was some early "confused" correspondence regarding the true identity of the person or entity to whom the landlord's interest in the shopping centres was to pass, there is no conceivable doubt now that Camiveo is the owner of the landlord's interest in the centres.
He said that Camiveo had an "inchoate right" to enforce the leases, in that it is only waiting on an official duty to be performed - the registration of the properties in its name.
Dunnes Stores has fought a number of legal actions against shopping centre owners in the past few years.
Last year, the owners of the Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght, Dublin, launched a High Court action against Dunnes for the recovery of a debt.