O'Donnell denies rent at 'absurdly low' level
Mary Patricia O’Donnell told a London court she and her husband, Brian, had been unable to find a tenant willing to pay £4,000 a month for the listed eight-bedroom Westminster home owned by their children.
Dr O’Donnell who, with her husband, is seeking to declare bankruptcy in London, was responding to Gabriel Moss, for Bank of Ireland, which opposes the petition.
Asked by Mr Moss if such a rent was “not absurdly low” for such a property, she insisted: “It isn’t absurdly low, and I’ll tell you why. We could not rent it out for £4,000 a month. It is very hard to rent properties at high prices.”
Dr O’Donnell, who gave just a half-day’s evidence yesterday on health grounds and will do so again today, also claimed she had received death threats and hate mail at her London address since it was published.
Under a tenancy agreement with Vico Barton – a Swiss-based trust set up in favour of the couple’s children – the couple were to pay £4,000 a month in rent for the property. Bank of Ireland argues the contract is a sham. Rent has been paid over the last two months, she insisted, though previous rent had been “offset” against the cost of running the property, which has a a swimming pool and three kitchens.
The four-storey property was put up for sale for £13 million (€16 million) two years ago.
Refusing to accept the couple’s declaration they were properly based in London before their bankruptcy petition in March, Mr Moss produced a letter from the couple’s London solicitor warning them not to rush in an application lest they do so too quickly.
AIB, which gave a mortgage to buy the property, has asked the couple to vacate the house by the end of January, though Dr O’Donnell had some hope they might be allowed stay if it had not been sold by then.
A trust set up to own the couple’s home in Gorse Hill in Killiney in 1997 had been suggested by Bank of Ireland: “They knew everything about the trust.” The trust had come about after the couple had a near-death experience in 1995, she said.
She rejected Mr Moss’s accusations that Gorse Hill had remained their main home until after last Christmas: “It isn’t propaganda, it’s true.”