A building company is entitled to take possession of an apartment from three people who claimed they entered into a tenancy agreement just before a receiver sold the property, the High Court ruled.
Ms Justice Siobhán Phelan granted Shay Murtagh Ltd possession of the first-floor apartment at Aisling Court, Killucan, Co Westmeath, from recovering addict Trevor Cooke and two other unnamed men referred to as "persons unknown".
The judge was satisfied no lawful tenancy existed in relation to the property.
Bought from receiver
The court heard builders Shay Murtagh Ltd bought the apartment last November from a receiver who had been appointed by PTSB to take it over from the previous owners Paul and Mary Coyle over default on a debt. The sale stated there were "occupiers" in the apartment from whom the receiver was not accepting rent.
Ciarán Murtagh, managing director of Shay Murtagh Ltd, said in an affidavit that the Coyles did not live in the apartment, but they had “installed a number of persons to trespass and secure” the property.
Mr Murtagh tried to gain access in January after he said he had been contacted by others residing at the flat complex, and by the gardaí, about alleged anti-social behaviour by those in the Murtagh-owned apartment.
The occupants refused to vacate and put Mr Murtagh on the phone to Mr Coyle, the previous owner, it was claimed, told Mr Murtagh he was still the owner.
In March, Mr Murtagh's company was granted an injunction from the Circuit Court against Mr Cooke, the only named defendant, and against "persons unknown" preventing obstruction of attempts by Shay Murtagh Ltd to take possession of the apartment.
Mr Cooke appealed the decision to the High Court.
Mr Cooke claimed he had a tenancy agreement and any dispute should be referred to the Residential Tenancies Board.
He also argued Shay Murtagh Ltd bought the apartment aware there were sitting tenants in it. He said that by granting the possession order, he and the other occupants would be homeless and this was an order which interfered disproportionately with their rights.
He further argued that as a recovering addict with serious health issues, he was entitled to rely on a recent Supreme Court judgment dealing with the eviction of a Traveller family from council land. Mr Cooke said similar to that family, as that judgment found, he too was a person "living on the margins of society".
Shay Murtagh Ltd opposed the appeal
Ms Justice Phelan ruled that because the previous owners, the Coyles, were not entitled to put tenants into the property without the permission of their lender PTSB and of the receiver, then there was no valid tenancy agreement in force.
While the judge took "full cognizance" of the consequences for Mr Cooke of her decision, she was satisfied there was a strong case that Mr Cooke and the other unnamed occupiers were trespassing on private property.
Shay Murtagh Ltd's rights as property owner are safeguarded under the Constitution and, as private property owner, is under no legal duty to provide for the accommodation needs of strangers and is under no obligation to trespassers, she said.