Man banned from providing property services in Ireland in landmark case

Man banned from providing property services in Ireland in landmark case
The Four Courts | File photo

A man has been permanently prohibited by the High Court from seeking a licence to provide property services here.

The ban arises after findings of improper conduct by him, including misappropriating monies paid by clients for property services.

The prohibition order is believed to be the first of its kind made here under the 2011 Property Services (Regulation) Act.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, also granted injunctions requiring Tony Breathnach, trading as Cavan Real Estate, Old Dublin Road, Cavan, to pay sums totalling €98,494 within 90 days.

He must pay €48,000 into the compensation fund of the Property Services Regulatory Authority, plus €50,000 by way of a financial penalty for the acts of improper conduct.

If the payments are not made within the 90 day period, the Authority can apply to the court for judgment in those sums, the judge directed.

The orders were sought by Zoe Richardson, a partner in Fieldfisher Solicitors, representing the Authority.

Mr Breathnach did not attend for the hearing on Monday and was not represented. He is believed to be in the UK.

Mr Justice Kelly said he was satisfied Mr Breathnach was on notice of the application. .

In court documents, it was stated Mr Breathnach was previously licensed to provide property services here but has not held a licence since July 5th 2017 when his existing licence expired.

After six separate complaints were made against him on dates in February and March 2017, inspectors were appointed by the PSRA to investigate. They provided reports on dates in February and March last concerning each complaint.

One complaint, made on behalf of a property management firm, alleged retention of clients deposit monies in respect of 18 properties sold in Co Cavan. The five other complaints alleged failure to return five booking deposits.

In relation to each complaint, the inspectors reported there had been specific breaches of Client Moneys Regulations which they considered amounted to improper conduct such that Mr Breathnach was no longer a fit and proper person to provide property services.

They considered Mr Breathnach had misappropriated client monies in the case of each of the six complaints and also considered the misappropriation of client monies was pre-meditated.

The PSRA convened a meeting last June to consider the reports. Mr Breathnach was informed of the intended meeting but did not attend it and was not legally represented.

The Authority noted at the meeting that the monies paid out to the six complainants from the Property Services Compensation were €615 to one complainant, €1,835 to a second, €5,000 each to four others and €26,044 to the property mangement company complainant.

It noted there had been limited engagement from Mr Breathnach at the start of the investigation and it had no knowledge of his income in the financial year prior to the events complained of.

It was satisfied improper conduct had occurred in relation to all six complaints and Mr Breathnach should be permanently prohibited from applying for a new licence, should pay €48,494 to the compensation fund and €50,000 to the Authority by way of financial penalty for the acts committed.

Mr Breathnach did not appeal the findings or sanction and the matter came before Mr Justice Kelly on Monday for confirmation of the sanction, as provided for in the 2011 Act.

The judge was also told that the matter has been reported to the gardaí.

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