A landlord (80) faces a €1,000 fine or 12 months in prison if there is a proven breach of a noise protection order at properties occupied by student tenants which were being used for “Covid house parties” during lockdown.
Last week at Cork District Court, Judge Olann Kelleher found it was proven that students were partying in two of Fachtna O'Reilly's properties near University College Cork (UCC) until 4am and 5am during lockdown.
Two locals took private prosecutions against the landlord for noise pollution under environmental laws. It is understood that student tenants moved into the properties in late May.
Mr O’Reilly, of Model Farm Road in Cork, was given a week to address noise issues at two of his properties in Highfield Avenue and Connaught Avenue in Cork city.
On Friday at the court Mr O'Reilly's solicitor, Eamon Murray, said his client had issued warnings to the tenants in both houses and had installed noise monitors and CCTV cameras. Mr O'Reilly also offered to pay the costs of the complainants.
Local residents Sadie O’Mahony and Mairead O’Callaghan, who took the proceedings, said that they had been subjected to loud music, persistent shouting and rowdy and aggressive behaviour from student occupants of the houses.
They told the court the anti-social behaviour was ongoing 24/7 and they were unable to enjoy their own homes arising out of the excessive noise.
Speaking after the ruling, Ms O’Callaghan said: “It will mean a lot to the families to have peace. The properties in question have been very noisy. We got no response from him [Mr O’Reilly]. We were left with no choice but to come here. It has had an awful impact on us. We all want to get on with our lives.”
The judge made an order under section 108 of the Environment Agency Protection Act. It makes Mr O’Reilly liable for any future proven breaches of noise levels at the houses involved.
Mr O’Reilly’s solicitor had applied for the case to be adjourned saying that his client had taken steps to address the issues raised by the complainants. Mr O’Reilly has now made verbal, informal and formal warnings to the relevant student tenants.
Solicitor David McCoy, for the residents, said his clients were wary of claims that Mr O’Reilly had had a “road to Damascus” conversion on addressing the anti-social behaviour over the last week.
The judge asked why it had taken Mr O’Reilly such a long time to take action over the complaints from predominantly elderly locals.
“People in this mature area of Cork are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their area and to live peacefully. I hope this will be the end of it and the problems.”
The judge said that he was also cognisant of the welfare of patients, nurses and doctors at the nearby Bon Secours Hospital as well as the potential impact on nuns in the enclosed order at the Poor Clare Convent.
The judge also said it was his belief that the non-eviction protection granted to workers who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis “was in a totally different league” to the case that was before his court.