Twenty people who have lived for several years in two Dublin properties have failed in their bid to overturn a High Court order requiring “persons unknown” to leave the properties.
The three judge Court of Appeal on Wednesday dismissed the occupants' bid to appeal over the order granted to Pepper Finance Corporation DAC in November 2020.
A separate judgment is awaited from the High Court on Pepper's application for orders for attachment and committal against various respondents over failure to leave the properties on foot of the November order.
Pepper has said it wants orders for attachment — arrest — of those respondents represented in court, for the purpose of being brought before the court. It has said the attachment orders should be stayed for a number of weeks to give the respondents a chance to make alternative arrangements.
Businessman Jerry Beades is the registered owner, but not an occupant, of the mortgaged properties at 31 Richmond Avenue, Fairview, and 21 Little Mary Street, Dublin 2, both made subject of High Court possession orders in 2008, affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2014.
The possession orders arose from default on loans made by IIB Bank and sold, respectively, to KBC Bank, Beltany Property Finance and, last August, to Pepper.
Pepper claims some €2.3 million is outstanding on the loans and, as a result of the possession orders, the occupants, who include a number of Romanian nationals and two young children, cannot rely on lease or rental agreements between them and Mr Beades.
While some occupants claim to have paid rent over years to Mr Beades, there is no evidence, since the possession orders were made, that Mr Beades has paid rent to anyone, including Pepper, the High Court was previously told.
When the November order directing persons unknown to leave by February 5th was made, there was no appearance by the occupants. Twenty occupants, including a mother of two living in the Richmond Avenue property since 2005, have been identified and claimed they were unaware of those proceedings.
In the COA judgment on Wednesday, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, with whom Mr Justice Seamus Noonan and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh agreed, held no basis had been shown by the occupants to justify the court granting the necessary extension of time to appeal the November 2020 order.
For reasons including “very significant” delay by the occupants in seeking to appeal, and Pepper’s interest in the finality of proceedings, such an extension was not in the interests of justice, she added.
In other findings, she held the central claim by the occupants to have valid tenancies on foot of agreements or leases between them and Mr Beades was not arguable.
Mr Beades had no entitlement to create rental leases or tenancies with occupants from at least 2008 when Pepper obtained a possession order for the properties, the judge said.
No valid tenancies have been shown to be in existence with the effect the occupants cannot pursue claims on foot of those, she said. When the possession order was made, there was “no conceivable lawful basis” on which Mr Beades could create tenancies, he was a trespasser, and the applicants submissions on that issue were “eerily silent”. There was no arguable case any of the tenancies were binding on Pepper.
She dismissed other claims that alleged deficiencies in service of legal documents for the November 2020 hearing, alleged lack of candour by Pepper concerning certain matters at that hearing, and its having obtained the order against “persons unknown”, constituted a basis for extending time to appeal.
Even if those claims were arguable, the balance of justice in this case was against extending time to appeal, she ruled.
Final orders will be made on a later date after the sides have considered the judgment.