Mum went home to find new tenant in house, court told
A woman returned from collecting her children from school to find their rented home of six years was purportedly rented to another man who refused to let her in, the High Court has heard.
Catherine Hadley said that when she returned on April 25 to the four-bedroom house on 12 acres at Kilbeg, Leap, Glandore, Co Cork, which she shares with her fiance James Brain and their two children, Patrick Lynch told her he was the new tenant and showed her a purported residential agreement dated that day.
The family went to stay with her mother in Skibbereen but, represented by lawyers Eanna Mulloy and Tim Dixon, got interim court orders the next day restraining trespass on the property by Mr Lynch, of Brookville, Ballygarvan, and its owner, Sonny Whelton, of Drombeg, Glandore.
Ms Hadley claims she got a locksmith last Monday to replace new locks on the property so the family could access it, but Mr Lynch that same night tried to secure re-entry using an angle grinder on locks, in breach of court orders.
In court yesterday, Mr Lynch, representing himself, said he is a "peaceful and passive man".
He denied contempt or using an angle grinder, and argued that he has lawful possession under an April 25 tenancy agreement with Mr Whelton.
He said various claims of the couple were "way off base" and he understood they had not paid rent for several months and Mr Whelton's efforts to resolve that amicably had failed.
Mr Whelton is an "aged" man unable to attend court and very distressed about the "appalling" state of the property, he added.
Ms Justice Caroline Costello warned Mr Lynch that the courts will do what is necessary to ensure compliance with orders and he faced jail unless he complied.
The orders clearly state "you have to get out and they have to get in", she said.
The couple were in possession for six years and Mr Lynch a few days and the violation of rights was his, not theirs, said the judge.
She advised both defendants to get lawyers, as the case centred on the Residential Tenancies Act and limitations on a landlord's ability to recover possession and to re-let.
After Mr Lynch gave a sworn undertaking not to trespass, she adjourned the matter to next week.
In an affidavit, Ian O'Reilly, the couple's solicitor, said they have two children, William (10), who is autistic, and Ella (4), have been in a loving relationship for years and are due to marry next month.
Ms Hadley said she agreed with Mr Whelton in 2012 to rent the property for €500 monthly and he refused requests from her for a rent book, tenancy agreement or receipts.
On March 26, she claimed a man who refused to identify himself, but who she now knew was Mr Lynch, called to the house, handed her a letter he said was being delivered on behalf of Mr Whelton and told her: "If I was you, I would listen to the letter."
It said she was to vacate, while a further letter demanded the property be returned in "acceptable condition".
Ms Hadley's solicitors advised Mr Whelton by letter that the purported notice of termination and of increase of rent were invalid.