A former tenant of a Dublin 4 apartment has been ordered by the High Court not to reduce a €68,000 inheritance below €45,000 until rent arrears have been discharged.
Carley Hamilton, who rented a flat at Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, from landlord Kevin McKeown, is to inherit a €68,136 share in her late mother’s home in Sandymount, Dublin.
In May 2021, Ms Hamilton was served with a termination notice after she ceased paying rent. She did not vacate the flat until February 2023.
The matter went to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and an adjudicator determined she owed a sum of money to Mr McKeown.
The decision was appealed and an appeals tribunal made a determination upholding the termination notice and directing her to pay €25,000, by way of €3,250 monthly instalments, and to continue to pay €3,250 per month until the dwelling was vacated.
The tribunal also held that the landlord breached his obligations and should pay €1,709 to the tenant.
Ms Hamilton then brought a High Court appeal against the RTB over the validity of the termination order and over the damages made to her against the landlord, Mr McKeown, who was a notice party.
She did not appeal the arrears finding and did not dispute she failed to pay rent. She also later represented herself after saying her legal team had failed to adequately represent her.
Mr McKeown then brought an application seeking, among other things, an order that she not dissipate the amount she would receive from her mother’s estate.
In July last year, Ms Justice Niamh Hyland made an interim order that she must not reduce her inheritance below €48,750 until the case had been determined or until the rent arrears were discharged and possession of the apartment delivered.
The judge, earlier this year, also upheld the tribunal’s decision.
In a judgment on Tuesday, Ms Justice Hyland made orders that Ms Hamilton must not reduce her inheritance below a new figure of €45,000 pending a statutory appeal whereby the RTB or the landlord can seek an order from the District Court directing the tenant to comply with the tribunal determination.
The judge said the landlord had sought the appointment of a receiver or else an order requiring inheritance money to be paid directly to him before availing of the statutory District Court process.
She said the mere fact that Ms Hamilton is to inherit a sum of money cannot ground an entitlement on the part of the landlord “to skip the enforcement steps” set out in law by taking what is a private law remedy.
The landlord can also use the terms of the tribunal’s determination order to recover further rent arrears which built up before Ms Hamilton left last February, she said. The sum eventually sought by the landlord had grown to more than €73,000.
The judge also refused an application by Ms Hamilton to discharge the July 2022 inheritance freezing order after Ms Hamilton claimed there was material non-disclosure by the landlord when he applied for the freezing order.
While the landlord ought to have disclosed the fact that there had been without prejudice settlement talks between the parties before the application was made, this failure was on the lesser end of the scale of non-disclosure breaches, she said.
The judge also granted Ms Hamilton liberty to apply to vary the order of non-dissipation of the inheritance below €45,000 if an application for enforcement of the tribunal’s determination is not made to the District Court within six weeks.