'No office use' of London property, investor told
The luxury home rented by property investors Brian and Mary Patricia O’Donnell and owned by their children cannot be used for offices, the London High Court was told.
The couple rent the Queen Anne, Grade II-listed property at Barton Street, Westminster, but it is on the market on the orders of Allied Irish Bank.
Bank of Ireland, the couple’s biggest creditor, is challenging the couple’s decision to file for bankruptcy in Britain, demanding instead that they do so in Ireland.
Questioning Mr O’Donnell, Bank of Ireland’s barrister, Gabriel Moss, said a restrictive covenant on the property’s title deeds prevented it from being used as offices.
“You have put forward the story that from 2008 on it was used as offices and headquarters. That is just a complete impossibility,” Mr Moss charged.
No employees worked from Barton Street, he said, though Mr O’Donnell said they came to the building “as and when they were required”.
“It took us a while to find a place with the features that we were looking for. We needed accommodation above the shop, along with a place for meeting people,” he said.
The issue is significant since the couple argue Barton Street has been their business headquarters, and latterly their home, since 2007. However, a tenancy agreement signed last year by Mr O’Donnell as both tenant and landlord laid down that it could not be used for offices.
Mr O’Donnell said AIB had ordered them to vacate the four-storey property in January, though he hoped this could be delayed with the bank’s agreement.
Mr Moss questioned Mr O’Donnell’s decision to give 62 Merrion Square – Vico Capital’s one-time address – as his last Irish address.
This had been done to avoid a reference to the couple’s long-time home in Dalkey – a mansion, said Mr Moss, with a swimming pool and grounds.
“Mansion is pejorative,” said Mr O’Donnell.