A businessman behind a collapsed luxury rental firm which left dozens of tenants without deposits is now director of a company letting one-bed apartments for up to €2,250 a month – and charging a further €400 in administration and cleaning fees.
Paul Hourican started his new venture, Laputa Limited, less than a year after his former business, Period Door Properties (PDP), was liquidated by the High Court.
PDP was subletting high-end properties from landlords – and renting out individual rooms to tenants in upmarket areas of Dublin. It entered financial difficulty during the pandemic, and ended up owing landlords and tenants a combined €400,000.
In a High Court affidavit, it claimed a “significant number” of tenants broke their leases during the pandemic, stopped paying rent and continued using utilities such as power and heat. It claimed it was owed €450,000 in unpaid rent and €200,000 in unpaid utilities.
The lettings company was involved in disputes with some high-profile figures – including Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof in a spat concerning a property in Crosthwaite Park, Dún Laoghaire.
Mr Geldof had been subletting the property to PDP and issued a notice of termination in December 2020, which the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) found to be invalid. This decision was appealed by Mr Geldof on the grounds that PDP owed him rent arrears.
However, the RTB later ruled it did not have jurisdiction in respect of PDP’s application to have the eviction notice deemed invalid. This was because PDP was using the dwelling for the purpose of carrying out business and this subsequently excluded it from RTB legislation.
Just a few months before PDP sought the protection of the High Court, Mr Hourican resigned his position as director – and a man by the name of Geoff Hogan was appointed as managing director of the company.
PDP, which was first set up by Mr Hourican in 2014, ceased trading in 2021.
The company was involved in 147 rental disputes over the years, and dozens of tenants who took successful cases against the company never received their money after it was liquidated. The majority of cases concerned deposit retention, while PDP also took some successful cases over rent arrears.
Mr Hourican is now running a new lettings business and has been advertising properties in Limerick city.
Some individual one-bed apartments are being let for a €2,250-a-month ‘licensing fee’
Laputa Ltd, trading as Roomourz, is letting apartments through licensing agreements. A person who occupies accommodation under a licence does not have the same protections as a tenant leasing a property through a standard rental agreement. As a result, licensees cannot avail of protections under residential tenancies legislation.
Some individual one-bed apartments are being let for a €2,250-a-month ‘licensing fee’. Each person living in the accommodation must also pay a €150 ‘administration fee’ and a €250 ‘end-of-occupancy cleaning fee’.
An advertisement for one of the properties says complimentary broadband and waste services are included “via an additional utility charge” and a regular housekeeping service is provided.
In response to queries from the Irish Independent, a spokesperson for Laputa said: “The new company is not affording lease agreements but license agreements on foot of legal advice – and this is not to in any way to negate anyone’s rights, but rather to provide flexibility which is at the heart of what our demographic wants, especially foreigners who do not understand the complexities of an Irish residential tenancy agreement.
“We operate on the basis of one couple per property but only in an ensuite. Otherwise it is one person per bedroom.
“We do not engage in intensification of use, and we do not engage in short-term lettings. It is a solution-orientated model that is very successful in other markets and provides much-needed options for those priced out of the rental market.”
Regarding the extra administration and cleaning fees, the spokesperson said the fee is applicable due to “marketing, legal and the provision of multiple sets of keys and lock boxes, which are all needed to correctly operate shared accommodation.”
They added: “In many circumstances, this fee is very often waived by way of a goodwill gesture.”
The end-of-occupancy cleaning fee must be prepaid at the start of the agreement “so that the resident may leave the house without the need to engage a team of professional cleaners”.
The spokesperson said that Laputa is a “very small venture and has no ambitions to scale the model to the size of the portfolio of PDP”.
In July 2021, the High Court issued an order to wind up PDP, which claimed its liabilities exceeded its assets by nearly €4m. It had also been ordered by the RTB to pay over €200,000 in deposits to tenants.
However, the Laputa spokesperson said they did not agree with some of the RTB findings.
“The company made it very clear to the head of the RTB that, given the crisis, it was not in any position to attend any RTB hearings – even those in the company’s significant interest to attend – due to lack of resources and until such time that normal market conditions resumed.
“The tenants went to the RTB and were awarded deposits without the true backstory of the situation being represented by the company.”
They added that PDP “refunded millions of euros in deposits before the company was not allowed to operate for the two years of the pandemic that placed the company in a near-impossible catch-22.”