Tenant given suspended sentence after cutting rafters in rental property

Judge said in spite of compensation paid he was ‘singularly unimpressed’ by demeanour of Denis O’Connor

The owner of the house told the court the defendant deliberately damaged the house so they couldn’t sell it to anyone else but him at a reduced price.

The owner of the house told the court the defendant deliberately damaged the house so they couldn’t sell it to anyone else but him at a reduced price.

 

A tenant who put a family through a “living hell” by cutting the rafters on the house he was renting in a bid to force the owners to sell him the property at a reduced price has received a two year suspended sentence following the payment of compensation.

At a sentencing hearing at Cork Circuit Criminal Court Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said Denis O’Connor (67) of Hillside, Cappagh in Kinsale, Co Cork had caused “devastation” to Audrey O’Mahony and her loved ones.

The defendant pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage to the house by removing roof rafters and damaging floors and various fittings at the O’Mahonys’ property at Duneen, Ballinvredig, Ballinspittle, Co Cork, on dates between December 5th, 2015, and July 23rd, 2018.

He also pleaded guilty to the theft of a fitted kitchen worth €1,000, which he removed from the single storey cottage to replace with his own kitchen which he then removed when he left the property, leaving the house without a functioning area to prepare food.

Garda Cormac Dineen told a previous hearing the O’Mahony family had moved from the cottage to their new home in Clonakilty and put their original home on the rental market.

The defendant, a handyman by profession, began renting the property in 2015. He agreed to carry out some minor repair works with the consent of the owners.

However, the court heard that the family did not give him permission to carry out some of the works completed. This included the removal of 27 roof rafters and taking up a hall floor leaving the family with a bill for damage of €16,000.

Garda Dineen said Mr O’Connor finally moved out of the property more than a year after he had stopped paying rent.

Ms O’Mahony said O’Connor deliberately damaged the house so they couldn’t sell it to anyone else but him at a reduced price.

She said it was almost four years since he threatened that “things were going to get nasty” and in that time he had made their lives “a living hell.”

“Our worst fear became a reality when we finally got our home back – on that morning, July 23rd, 2018, my world caved in on top of me – the discovery of the very serious and dangerous damage to the attic where he removed 27 rafters was the last straw,” she said.

Homelessness was high on my mind at that time – we feared we would lose both the rental house and our own family home if we could not sell the rental and pay our escalating linked mortgages debt to the bank – our despair was overwhelming – we were trapped in a never-ending nightmare.”

Ms O’Mahony told how the financial strain left the family with no choice but to cut back on groceries, clothing and heating. Such was the stress she was under that she collapsed and was taken to hospital.

The case had been adjourned for compensation to be paid with the defendant in custody pending sentencing.

Defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan BL said his client was a discharged bankrupt who was apologetic for his actions. His client on Thursday handed over €13,000 in compensation.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said he had huge sympathy for Ms O’Mahony. He said that in spite of the compensation paid to the family he was still “singularly unimpressed” by the demeanour of the defendant in court.

“I heard all of the evidence and am aware of the devastation and damage caused to the householder. The householder was very much at risk from Denis O’Connor. He was let in there (to the house) in good faith. The damage and distress caused to the couple was epic.”

However, taking the guilty plea, the lack of previous convictions and payment of compensation into consideration he jailed Mr O’Connor for two years suspending the entirety of the sentence.