Sunday 17 December 2017

Lay church assistant fails to get High Court order to restrain end of his tenancy from charity's D4 property

The Four Courts in Dublin.
The Four Courts in Dublin.

A man employed as a lay church assistant has failed to get a High Court order restraining the termination of his tenancy from a property in Ballsbridge, Dublin, where the landlord is a charity.

Derek O'Shaughnessy had challenged an April 2014 decision of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) upholding the termination by Strand Trust Ltd, a registered charity, of his tenancy at Pembroke Gardens where he lived since September 2004.

During a dispute resolution process, Mr O'Shaughnessy, who works as a verger at St Anne's Church, Dawson Street, alleged he had been served with an invalid notice of termination.

Strand Trust rejected that claim, argued he was in rent arrears and was occupying the property after the expiry of his notice to quit, or overholding.  It was also claimed he caused damage to the premises and caused the landlord further loss of rental income due to being unable to let an adjoining property due to his actions.

At an adjudication hearing in September 2013, an adjudicator decided a valid notice of termination was served, Mr O'Shaughnessy was overholding, had failed to pay rent of some €11,692 and unlawfully changed the locks without the landlord's consent.

A tenancy tribunal then heard Mr O'Shaughnessy's appeal against those findings.  That tribunal was told Mr O'Shaughnessy was provided with the Pembroke Gardens property after an approach from "a concerned person", the High Court was heard.

Mr O'Shaughnessy told the tribunal he understood Protestant Aid, which employed him as a verger with select vestry of St Anne's, was "one and the same" with Strand Trust.

In rejecting his appeal yesterday, High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said Strand Trust was formed in 1988 and is a separate registered charity from Protestant Aid, founded in 1836, with both charities administered from the same building.

Strand Trust owned a number of properties and provides accommodation to those who need it urgently but always expects to get some rent, he said. 

The tenancy tribunal had concluded Strand Trust and Mr O'Shaughnessy had intended for a landlord and tenant relationship to come into existence when their relationship began, the judge said.

It also found the Pembroke Gardens dwelling was not let by a housing body "approved" for that purpose in the Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1992, with the effect the PRTB could deal with the matter.

The tribunal ruled the notice of termination was valid, that Mr O'Shaughnessy should vacate the property within seven days and pay rent arrears.

In his appeal on a point of law to the High Court, Mr Shaughnessy argued Strand Trust was an "approved" body and the PRTB had no jurisdiction to deal with the dispute.

Mr Justice Kearns said the primary issue was whether Strand Trust is an approved body within the meaning of the 1992 Act.

While Protestant Aid was an approved body, Strand Trust does not have approved status and the fact both bodies are administered from the same building did not make them "one and the same" as argued by Mr O'Shaughnessy, he said.

The judge ruled the PRTB had not erred in its findings and dismissed Mr O'Shaugnessy's appeal.

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