A judge has said he may summons the chief executive of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to appear in his court after expressing his "surprise, disappointment and astonishment" at its apparent lack of communication with regard to a live case.
Judge James McNulty said the RTB - which resolves disputes between landlords, tenants and third parties - had created a "bureaucratic obstacle course" which was holding up the two parties involved in the case before him at Skibbereen District Court.
In court Denis Collins BL, for AMOSS Solicitors who act for Bank of Scotland, sought the enforcement of an initial termination notice that had been served on the tenants of a property, who in turn had referred the matter to the RTB.
The RTB then issued an adjudication report with regard to a property, and the solicitors for the tenants claim they then appealed - but then heard nothing more. The court heard a determination order was then issued from the RTB, apparently on the basis that no appeal was lodged.
Colette McCarthy, solicitor for the family in the house, said that they had lodged an appeal with the RTB over the initial termination order, and that bank records showed that the RTB had withdrawn the associated fee.
However, they never heard whether the appeal had been entertained by the RTB, they received no subsequent correspondence in relation to it, and the barrister for the other side said they had received no record of an appeal having been granted or heard by the RTB.
Ms McCarthy told the court that both those living in the house and solicitors on their behalf had made numerous efforts to get clarity from the RTB on the issue of an appeal, but to no avail. Those efforts included 10 phone calls made by the tenants over the period of less than a month earlier this year, as well as correspondence sent on their behalf by their solicitors.
Judge McNulty said it now needed to be clarified whether the RTB proceeded to a determination in the case even though an appeal may have been filed. He accepted that the appeal may have been lodged too late, but said efforts had been made to clarify that but that the RTB had been "less than forthcoming".
"I have to express surprise," he said.
"However, the surprise increases to disappointment and then to astonishment, in that order."
He referred to the RTB's "bureaucratic obstacle course to climb before they will engage or respond to solicitors".
The judge said the court was not impressed with the response of the RTB to legitimate, proper and efficient correspondence by the tenants and solicitors acting on their behalf, adding: "It would be laughable if it was not so serious."
He referred to two solicitors' letters sent on behalf of the tenants, dated March 13 and March 25, which received no response apart from "a bizarre telephone call to say 'how did we do?', like a marketing exercise".
"The fact that they lie unanswered to date is a cause of astonishment".
He said he wanted an explanation regarding the RTB's "apparent indolence", particularly since the associated appeal fee was withdrawn and - to the best knowledge of the tenants - not refunded.
Judge McNulty said if there was no explanation on the next day the case is heard he would summons the chief executive of the RTB to Skibbereen to explain the RTB's "apparent inefficiency and what appears to be gross professional discourtesy". The case was adjourned until July 9.