By Ann O'Loughlin
A High Court judge has expressed concerns about "foreign-owned funds" citing fire safety issues when seeking to put people out of their homes immediately.
The remarks were made by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan at today's sitting of the High Court over a case in Cork city.
Mr Justice Gilliam made the comments after an action brought by a fund Targeted Investment Opportunities ICAV (TIO) against a young couple Mr Colm O'Nuanain and Ms Melanie Mook was briefly mentioned before the court.
The fund seeks various orders against the couple including an injunction preventing them from trespassing or occupying premises situated at 85-86 Barrack Street, Cork.
The couple have opposed the application.
After being informed TIO was seeking the orders on grounds including fire safety, the Judge said that he was taking a certain view about the number of cases beginning "to creep in" where foreign owned funds, or receivers acting on their behalf, seek to immediately put people out of their homes over fire safety concerns.
Mr Justice Gilligan said he was speaking "in general terms" and was not taking a view on any specific case. However he stated what he was saying in this regard was "a fair comment." and something he was happy to say "quite openly."
In its action against the couple, who are expecting their first child in late August, the fund claims it purchased the property in December 2014. The previous owners were Titan Developments and the property had been the subject of a mortgage from Bank of Ireland.
The Fund says it was registered as the full owner of 85-86 Barrack Street, which consists of adjoining properties in March 2015. No 86 consists of a commercial premises on the ground floor and a residential dwelling upstairs. There are residential dwellings on the ground and first floor of number 85.
In a sworn statement seeking the injunctions the fund said neither it nor the previous owners granted the couple a valid tenancy allowing them remain in the properties. It claims they are trespassing and have no legal entitlement to be
The fund also says an engineers report concerning the premises, commissioned earlier this year by the defendant, has identified several fire safety concerns and issues about the structural integrity of the buildings.
The couple had also advertised the property for rental on AirBnb.
Nevan Powell BL for TIO said his client has not been able to enter the premises and carry out an inspection.
The couple, who represented themselves before the Court, say they have a written agreement to allow them remain in the properties.
They say they have resided at and operated a business from the premises for several years and have been in negotiations with the agents for the owners for a lease.
They have sought a long term lease with a first refusal on sale at market rate, and at one stage last year believed they had agreed terms of an agreement.
The couple also say they have carried out repairs to the buildings at their own expense. They have also invested a lot of time, resources and expense into the properties especially the garden.
At one stage they ran a vegetable shop from the premises called the "The Lettuce Inn." That business ceased, but they had plans for a deli counter, and were under the impression a negotiation was ongoing.
Earlier this month they received a communication that the TIO was seeking vacant possession of the property.
The say that if evicted the couple say they are at risk of "immediate homelessness."
The Judge, in order to allow the couple formally reply to the fund's application for an injunction , adjourned the matter for two weeks.