herald

Saturday 24 June 2017

'We're not privileged, we've nowhere to go' - mum and daughter living rent free

Laraine, right and Christa Johnson in their home, Twin Trees, Nerano Road, Dalkey.
Laraine, right and Christa Johnson in their home, Twin Trees, Nerano Road, Dalkey.
Laraine and Christa Johnson in their home. Photo: Damien Eagers

A mother and daughter ­given until January to leave their rented Dalkey home, claim they now face homelessness.

Christa Johnson (38) and her mother Laraine Johnson (70), deny living the high life in the upmarket Dublin suburb.

They insisted that they are far from "privileged and wealthy" - but were instead unable to leave the property after falling on hard times.

The mother and daughter told the Herald they have lived at Twin Trees, on Nerano Road for 11 years. Their case came to prominence when a judge gave them until January 6 to vacate the property, in a hearing on Wednesday.

Difficult

The pair admitted they had not paid the rent of €1,600 since June 3, a date they agreed through arbitration with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) to leave the house.

The court heard they had written to the PRTB claiming they had signed the agreement under duress.

Speaking from their home yesterday, they said with no family here, they have nowhere else to go. The pair claim they have been unable to pay rent after falling on difficult times.

"She got sick, I lost my job, it just spiralled out of control," Christa said.

"For a long time we both worked hard and then things slowly disintegrated." She said the family has "begged and borrowed" to keep a roof over their heads.

"(We've been painted) as privileged, wealthy, wilfully staying here as if we're just going to stay here forever and we have no problems - it's just that we don't want to leave," she added.

"That's not the case. We're in a really bad state. It's our lives.

"We have no idea what's going to happen or where we are going to go. We are literally facing homelessness."

Laraine was an opera singer and composer until she became ill. She then became a music teacher until almost completely losing her sight.

Her daughter, who studied psychology, worked in a number of jobs until the recession and has been struggling to find work since. "The slant that has been put on it makes us sound like we're Hollywood stars living out here and not paying on purpose," Christa said.

The pair estimate they have paid €262,000 to the landlord since they first rented the house. Christa and Laraine Johnson appeared before the Circuit Civil Court on Wednesday. Judge Jacqueline Linnane, who normally gives only seven days to those who renege on rent payments, said she would allow them to spend Christmas and New Year at the property.

Favour

The judge said the two defendants had not disputed that they had not paid any rent from the period of June 3 until yesterday and it was only at the date they were supposed to vacate the property that they had written to the Board claiming they had signed the agreement under duress.

The court made an order for possession of Twin Trees in favour of the landlord but granted the defendants a stay until January 6. She also granted judgment for €11,200 unpaid rent against the Johnsons in favour of the landlord.

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