Family's home 'rented' to another man while mother collected children from school, court hears
A WOMAN returned from collecting her children from school to find their rented home of six years was purportedly rented to another man who refused to let her in, the High Court has heard.
Catherine Hadley said, when she returned on April 25 to the four bedroom house on 12 acres at Kilbeg, Leap, Glandore, Co Cork, that she shares with her fiancé James Brain and their two children, Patrick Lynch told her he was the new tenant and showed her a purported residential agreement dated that day.
The family went to stay with her mother in Skibberreen but, represented by Eanna Mulloy SC, with Tim Dixon BL, got interim court orders the next day restraining trespass on the property by Mr Lynch, Brookville, Ballygarvan, and its owner, Bartholomew, aka Sonny, Whelton, of Drumbeg, Glandore.
Ms Hadley claims she got a locksmith last Monday to replace new locks on the property so the family could access it but Mr Lynch that same night tried to secure re-entry using an angle grinder on locks in breach of court orders.
In court on Tuesday, Mr Lynch, representing himself, said he is a "peaceful and passive man". He denied contempt or using an angle grinder, argued he has lawful possession under an April 25 tenancy agreement with Mr Whelton. He said various claims of the couple were "way off base" and he understood they had not paid rent for several months and Mr Whelton's efforts to resolve that amicably had failed. Mr Whelton is an "aged" man unable to attend court and very distressed about the "appalling" state of the property, he added.
Ms Justice Caroline Costello warned Mr Lynch the courts will do what is necessary to ensure compliance with orders and he faced jail unless he complied.
The orders clearly said "you have to get out and they have to get in", she said.
Even on his case, the couple were in possession for six years and Mr Lynch a few days and the violation of rights was his, not theirs, she said.
The judge advised both defendants to get lawyers as the case centred on the Residential Tenancies Act and limitations on a landlord's ability to recover possession and to relet.
After Mr Lynch gave a sworn undertaking not to trespass, she adjourned the matter to next week.
In an affidavit, Ian O’Reilly, the couple’s solicitor, said they have two children, William (10), who is autistic, and Ella, aged four, have been in a loving relationship for years and are due to marry next month.
Ms Hadley claimed she agreed with Mr Whelton in 2012 to rent the property for €500 cash monthly and he refused requests from her for a rent book, tenancy agreement or receipts. There were no difficulties until about 2016 when, she claimed, Mr Whelton occasionally sought higher rent payments of €750 and, on one occasion, €1,000.
Her partner was running a sole trading mechanic business at the property by 2016 and they paid the extra rent for reasons including the local school was well equipped to deal with their son’s autism, she said.
By August 2017, she was unable to return to work as a chef due to injury and the family finances came under pressure. She claimed Mr Whelton agreed last February to her claiming State housing allowance but told her the following month he was increasing the rent to €750. When she raised their rights as tenants, Mr Whelton told her, if they did not pay the extra rent, he would “get them out of the property”, she claimed.
On March 26, she claimed a man who refused to identify himself but she now knew was Mr Lynch, called to the house, holding what appeared to be a stick or horse whip, handed her a letter he said was being delivered on behalf of Sonny Whelton and told her: “If I was you, I would listen to the letter”. It stated, due to a family member requiring the property, she was to vacate it while a further letter from Mr Whelton, dated April 16t 2018, demanded the property be returned in “acceptable condition.
Her solicitors advised Mr Whelton by letter the purported notice of termination and of increase of rent were invalid.