Eason, the books and stationary store at Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, owes its landlord €423,000 in rent arrears, the Circuit Civil Court heard yesterday.
Barrister Michael Howard SC, council for Liffey Valley Ltd and LV Property Phase 1 Limited, told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that Eason and Son had effectively given themselves a rent reduction last year.
Mr Howard, who appeared with Michael Vallely, said Eason, after withholding 30% of the rent for the quarter commencing April 1, 2014, had continued to withhold 25% of the rent for the last two quarters of 2014 and had paid no rent for the first quarter of 2015 which commenced on January 1 last.
Mr Larry Fenelon, of Leman Solicitors, for Eason and Son, told the court he had been served with an affidavit on behalf of the landlords only on Friday last and required an adjournment to reply to it and lay out Eason’s claim that the matter should be referred to arbitration.
He said there was an arbitration clause in the lease and the landlords had brought a motion in the wrong jurisdiction to stay any dispute going to arbitration.
Brennan and Co, solicitors for the landlords, disputed that there had been a refusal by representatives of the landlords to engage with Easons in respect of complaints raised by the bookseller last year.
Eason, in stating in May last year that it had reduced its rent by €70,500 had outlined a number of grievances the company alleged could be summarised as poor estate management. The company complained about:
* The quality of transient, seasonable and permanent retailers being admitted to the shopping centre in recent years, some selling in direct competition with Eason’s products.
* Smaller retailers and particularly transient retailers being given an unfair competitive advantage as a result of more favourable service charge arrangements.
* Some retailers, including HMV as part of their liquidation and subsequent restructure, having been granted significant rent reductions.
* The lack of the agreed five-year rent review which, Eason claimed, ought to have taken place in October 2013 and had not.
* An absence of a suitable exterior and car park marketing profile by the landlords of the Eason store which paid the fifth highest rent in the centre.
n An adverse affect on customer shopping experience of alleged smells from the centre’s main toilets.
* Retailers failing to abide by the centre’s opening hours of 9:30am Monday to Saturday and from 11am on Sundays, causing obvious confusion for customers and inevitably leading them to shop elsewhere.
Judge Linnane, adjourning the landlords’ application until next month to facilitate new evidence, said the parties should try to come to some arrangement.
In a statement issued after yesterday's court proceedings the managing partner for Liffey Valley rejected all claims made in respect of the management of the centre.
"Hines Ireland, as managing partner for Liffey Valley, totally rejects all the claims made by Eason and Son in respect of the management of the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.
"These claims are without foundation and have been made to draw attention from their decision to withhold €423,000 in rent - in breach of their contract. These claims also discount the €2 million invested in customer facilities in Liffey Valley in 2014.
"Repeated attempts have been made to engage with Eason and Son in relation to their concerns but their approach left Hines Ireland with no option other than to legally pursue the arrears owed under contract."
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