A healthcare assistant, his ill wife and their four children, of whom three have special needs, must leave their rented apartment in Ballsbridge by the end of next month, the High Court has said.
Mr Justice Anthony Barr previously dismissed the couple’s action against the Residential Tenancies Board aimed at overturning a notice terminating their tenancy at No 32 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Their landlord, Michael Whelan, a notice party, wants to sell the properties at Nos 32 and 34 Elgin Road, which housed some 30 tenants in 2018 before most left under an earlier termination notice. An offer of €5.5m was obtained for the properties last year but the prospective purchaser has pulled out of the sale, the judge noted.
Following the dismissal of their case last March, Reynaldo Blanco and Virulyn Avellansosa asked if they could remain until the end of the school year on June 25th, rather than a 28-day period from perfection of the order arising from the March 12th judgment. Mr Whelan opposed the extension.
'Very sad' case
In a recent ruling, the judge said it was a “very sad” case, the family are in “very difficult” circumstances and Mr Blanco can only work part-time as a healthcare assistant due to his responsibilities in caring for his wife, who is recovering from cancer, and their children.
The couple wanted the extension because their children, aged from six to 17 years, of whom three have special needs, are attending schools locally, he said. The family are number 19 on the housing list but, for reasons including they are awaiting a four-bedroom house, it may be some time before they are housed.
He was satisfied, in the circumstances, to permit them stay until June 25th and directed each side pay their own costs of the case, which he had dismissed on foot of findings similar to those made by him in an earlier challenge by another tenant, Aldona Stulpinaite.
A childminder, she has lived since September 2005 at 34 Elgin Road under what the judge described as an “oral” tenancy from week to week, paying rent, currently €155 weekly, into a box cemented to the wall of the property.
Intention to sell
She challenged a December 2019 decision of the RTB that a termination notice served on her in March 2019 by solicitors for Mr Whelan, requiring her to leave in November 2019, was valid.
The stated reason for termination was the landlord intended to sell the property.
The key issue before the tribunal was whether the stated intention of Mr Whelan to sell was in fact bona fide held by him on that date. The judge found there was “overwhelming” evidence before the tribunal of intention by Mr Whelan to sell within the requisite period at the time the March 2019 termination notice was served and in the months thereafter.
In his recent ruling on follow-up orders in her case, the judge refused to allow her three months to vacate the flat, saying she had had some two months from his March 12th judgment which was reasonable time to vacate.
While finding Ms Stulpinaite, represented by the Free Legal Advice Centres, was not entitled to her costs on public interest grounds against the board, he refused to make orders requiring her to pay the costs of the board and landlord, as both sought.
Ms Stulpinaite, he noted, is a single woman living in the apartment for 15 years with a gross income of €21,800. She receives housing assistance payment, is low priority on the housing list and her current rent is low given what she will have to pay in a new apartment.
She was previously awarded €7,500 against the landlord over breach of his obligation to keep the property in adequate condition and the landlord had received an offer of €5.5 million for the properties.
There is an “enormous chasm” between her economic position and that of a statutory agency and a wealthy landlord, he said. If he made a costs order against this woman, “in essence fighting to protect her home”, she could be saddled with the debt for the rest of her natural life.
He could not see how that was “just”, the judge said.