A "greedy" fund's court application could see 20 people being evicted in the middle of a pandemic if they do not leave two Dublin properties where they have lived for many years, the High Court has been told.
The application by Pepper Finance Corporation DAC has serious implications for rights of the occupants, including children, who could end up homeless or in care if their parents are evicted and it should be struck out, lawyers for various occupants urged Mr Justice Mark Sanfey on Wednesday.
Businessman Jerry Beades is the registered owner, but not an occupant, of the mortgaged properties at 31 Richmond Avenue, Fairview, and 21 Little Mary Street, Dublin 2. Both were made subject of High Court possession orders in 2008, affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2014.
The possession orders arose from default on loans made by IIB Bank and sold, respectively, to KBC Bank, Beltany Property Finance and, last August, to Pepper.
Pepper claims some €2.3m is outstanding on the loans and that, as a result of the possession orders, the occupants, who include a number of Romanian nationals, cannot rely on lease or rental agreements between them and Mr Beades.
While some occupants claim to have paid rent over years to Mr Beades, there is no evidence, since the possession orders were made, Mr Beades has paid rent to anyone, including Pepper, despite its security having been confirmed by court order, Rossa Fanning SC, for Pepper, said.
Pepper has brought an attachment and committal application arising from a High Court order obtained by it last November requiring “persons unknown” in occupation of the properties to leave by February 5th at the latest.
When the November order was made, there was no appearance by the occupants. Twenty occupants have since been identified and say they were unaware of those proceedings.
An appeal by some parties over the November order is due to be heard in July but the Court of Appeal refused a stay permitting occupants remain in the properties pending that.
After the two day hearing of Pepper’s application concluded on Wednesday, Mr Justice Sanfey reserved judgment.
In opposing the fund’s application, the occupants lawyers argued, inter alia, they are entitled to a full hearing for reasons including they have acquired rights as a result of lease or rental agreements with Mr Beades.
Other arguments include the November proceedings were not properly served on them.
John Kennedy SC, for some occupants, said Pepper only acquired its interest in the properties last August but, in pursuit of “a quick profit”, had brought this “ultra-aggressive application”.
Pepper wanted the court to ignore procedural justice, to deny the occupants a hearing and make orders aimed at having them evicted in the middle of a pandemic, he said.
His clients have nowhere to go and, if Pepper succeeds, there would be “an absolute mess” for the State to deal with. There was no explanation for delays since 2008 in enforcing the possession order, he added.
One of his clients is a woman who has lived in the Richmond Avenue property since 2005 and remains there with her partner and two children, aged four and 12, he said.
She had exhibited a letter dated 2008 from a Dublin maternity hospital, addressed to her at 31 Richmond Avenue, has paid rent weekly to someone purporting to be the “landlord”, knew nothing about Mr Beades’ relationship with mortgagees, and has told Pepper she is willing to pay rent to it.
In reply, Mr Fanning said no grounds had been made out to refuse Pepper’s application and there seemed to be no desire by the respondents to face up to the reality of their situation.
Pepper wants orders for the attachment – arrest — of the respondents represented in court for the purpose of being brought before the court, he said. The attachment orders should be stayed for a number of weeks to give them a chance to make alternative arrangements.
The Covid-19 related moratorium on evictions does not apply to this case, he also argued.