Family facing ‘very difficult’ circumstances must leave rented home

Owner looking to sell Dublin 4 property where man lives with his ill wife and four children

A man, his ill wife and their four children, three of whom have special needs, must leave their rented apartment in Ballsbridge, Dublin by the end of next month, the High Court has said. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

A man, his ill wife and their four children, three of whom have special needs, must leave their rented apartment in Ballsbridge, Dublin by the end of next month, the High Court has said. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

A healthcare assistant, his ill wife and their four children, three of whom have special needs, must leave their rented apartment in Ballsbridge, Dublin by the end of next month, the High Court has said.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr previously dismissed the couple’s action against the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) aimed at overturning a notice terminating their tenancy at 32 Elgin Road.

The landlord, Michael Whelan, a notice party, wants to sell two properties at 32 and 34 Elgin Road, which housed some 30 tenants in 2018 before most left under an earlier termination notice.

An offer of €5.5 million was obtained for the properties last year, but the prospective purchaser has since pulled out, the judge noted.

Following the dismissal of their case last March, Reynaldo Blanco and Virulyn Avellansosa asked if they could remain until the end of the school year on June 25th, rather than after the 28 day period set in the March 12th judgment. Mr Whelan opposed the extension.

In a recent ruling, the judge said it was a “very sad” case, the family are in “very difficult” circumstances and Mr Blanco can only work part-time due to his responsibilities in caring for his wife, who is recovering from cancer, and their children.

Housing list

The couple wanted the extension because their children, aged from six to 17 years, of whom three have special needs, are attending schools locally, he said. The family are number 19 on the housing list but, for reasons including they are awaiting a four bedroom house, it may be some time before they are housed.

He was satisfied, in the circumstances, to permit them to stay until June 25th and directed each side pay their own costs in the case, which he had dismissed on foot of findings similar to those made by him in an earlier challenge by another tenant, Aldona Stulpinaite.

A childminder, she has lived since September 2005 at 34 Elgin Road under what the judge described as an “oral” week to week tenancy, paying rent, currently of €155 weekly, into a box cemented on a wall.

She challenged a December 2019 decision of the RTB that a termination notice served on her in March 2019 by solicitors for Mr Whelan, requiring her to leave in November 2019, was valid. The stated reason for termination was the landlord intended to sell the property.

The key issue before the tribunal was whether the stated intention of Mr Whelan to sell was in fact bona fide held by him on that date. The judge found there was “overwhelming” evidence before the tribunal of an intention to sell within the requisite period.

In his recent ruling on follow up orders in her case, the judge refused to allow Ms Stulpinaite three months to vacate the flat, saying she’d had some two months from his March 12th judgment, which was a reasonable period.

While finding Ms Stulpinaite, represented by the Free Legal Advice Centres, was not entitled to her costs against the board on public interest grounds, he refused to make orders requiring her to pay the costs of the board and landlord, as both sought.

Low rent

Ms Stulpinaite, he noted, is a single woman living in the apartment for 15 years with a gross income of €21,800. She receives housing assistance payment, is low priority on the housing list and her current rent is low given what she will have to pay elsewhere.

She was previously awarded €7,500 against the landlord over breach of his obligation to keep the property in adequate condition and the landlord had received an offer of €5.5 million for the properties.

There was an “enormous chasm” between her economic position and that of a statutory agency and a wealthy landlord, he said. If he made a costs order against this woman, “in essence fighting to protect her home”, she could be saddled with the debt for the rest of her natural life. He could not see how that was “just”, the judge said.