Tag Archives: Brian O’Connell

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-15-02-16

The Strand apartment complex in Limerick city

This morning.

RTÉ journalist Brian O’Connell reported on Today with Sean O’Rourke that the tenants of up to 70 apartments in the Strand apartment complex in Limerick could be facing eviction.

He explained:

The Strand apartment complex – which includes upwards of 200 apartments and the Limerick Strand Hotel – was built in Limerick in 2007 by Galway developer John Lally’s Lalco Holdings.

In 2014, the hotel was sold to US billionaire John Malone.

At some point, the debts related to the apartments went into Nama.

Nama, in turn, sold the debt on to US vulture fund Oaktree.

Oaktree has now directed Sova, a subsidiary of Lalco Holdings, to sell the properties to repay the debt.

Because of this, according local Anti-Austerity Alliance Councillor Cian Prendiville, the tenants of 30 apartments in the complex have already been effectively “forced out” while the tenants of up to 70 more apartments may face eviction.

Brian O’Connell spoke to several tenants for his report, including a woman who has been living there for nine years.

In addition, he explained:

“It turns out that the loans attached to the development, as I said, went into Nama. Now, at some stage, Nama sold these loans or this debt onto Oaktree. They’re a US-based capital fund vehicle or so-called vulture fund as we’ve come to know them.

“Sova which is a subsidiary of the original developers [Lalco Holdings], they gave me a comment and they told me that the debt secured against the properties was sold by Nama to Oaktree and it’s Oaktree that have now directed that Sova have to sell the properties to repay the debts.

“Sova, they say, maintains ongoing communication with the tenants. I went back with a follow-up question because what’s all that got to do with the tenants who are in place currently. Why do they have to leave? Just because there’s been a change in ownership.

“And they said, well, ‘unless there’s specific circumstances to the contrary, Oaktree, which is the vulture fund,  their view is that the volume is maximised by sale with vacant possession’. So, in other words Sean, they realise that these apartments will make more on the open market if they’re vacant before being sold.

“I’ve heard stories in the last 24 hours, in the last batch of apartments were sold, tenants had to leave, they went back out for rent and they got €400-€500 more a month for them.

Nama didn’t confirm to me when the loan had been sold or for how much, but a spokesperson pointed out that Nama doesn’t actually own properties and they say that Nama policy is that, where possible, debtors and receivers should avoid seeking vacant possession of residential property but, of course, if a new owner comes in, they have different policies.”

Further to this.

Mr O’Rourke later interviewed Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and asked him about the contents of Mr O’Connell’s report.

To introduce the matter, Mr O’Rourke compared the situation in Limerick to that of Tyrrelstown, Dublin 15.

Readers will recall how last year up to 200 families renting homes in the Cruise Park development in Tyrrelstown faced eviction.

Twinlite – a property company owned by developers Michael and Richard Larkin – had sent letters informing tenants in Tyrrelstown that they had to leave the properties in which they lived, after a Goldman Sachs vulture fund bought an €89million loan, secured on the homes by the Larkin brothers, from Ulster Bank.

Following publicity over what was happening in Tyrrelstown, the so-called Tyrrelstown amendment was added to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 before Christmas – to prevent people from being evicted in such situations.

It states that where a landlord proposes to sell 20 or more units in a development – within six months – the sales will be conditional on existing tenants being able to remain in the property unless there are exceptional circumstances.

During debates on this amendment, several politicians appealed for the number 20 to be reduced to five.

Mr O’Rourke asked Mr Coveney why this amendment is failing to protect the tenants of the Strand apartments in Limerick.

Mr Coveney said:

“First of all, we need to check whether it does or it doesn’t. But, I mean, for me, it is totally unacceptable that when one institutional investor sells to another institutional investor or one professional landlord is selling an apartment complex to another professional landlord, that people’s tenancies shouldn’t be protected through that sales process.

“That is the norm in many countries, it’s not the norm in the UK, but it’s the norm in many countries and it should be the norm here. And we have taken advice from the Attorney General to make that happen and that is why, in the rental legislation, which got a lot of controversy and coverage in the build-up to Christmas – we introduced a Tyrrelstown amendment, to make sure Tyrrelstown wouldn’t happen again.

That legislation has now been passed and the commencement order, for the so-called Tyrrelstown amendment which ensures that, actually, when this type of sale happens that people are protected by law, to stay in their homes, as tenants who are paying their way – that amendment will be commenced next week actually. That’s my understanding.”

“… I listened to your report on the radio, before coming in, and  I’ll need more details to be able to give an accurate answer on that because...the legislation doesn’t apply retrospectively because it can’t…”

Listen to the interview with Brian O’Connell in full here

Listen to the interview with Simon Coveney in full here

Strand tenants against vulture evictions – STAVE (Facebook)

Earlier: ‘Judgements In Favour Of Vulture FUnds Will Explode In 2017’

Pic: Daft

court_house

Cork Circuit Court

You may recall a post from Monday.

It was about an item on Today with Seán O’Rourke, in which journalist Brian O’Connell reported on repossession cases that were heard last Wednesday at Cork Circuit Court.

On that day, there were 52 cases before the court involving a family home.

Today, there are 40 such cases listed in the Cork Circuit Court – also all involving a family home.

Specifically, on Wednesday, Mr O’Connell spoke to a mother of five in Cork who appeared in court without the knowledge of her family.

The woman’s house is back in positive equity, and it was reported that her debt amounts to around €30,000.

Her repayments are €800 a month but she can only afford €500 a month.

She was just after receiving an adjournment until May when Mr O’Connell spoke to her.

Very distressed, she told Mr O’Connell:

I don’t have Christmas decorations up, I don’t have any Christmas shopping done, I actually, I love Christmas, but I can’t think. You don’t think about anything else, when this is going on.”

“My youngest, the other day, he wanted change for a collection for Focus and he said, ‘Mum, at least we’ll help some homeless person’ and I’m actually thinking ‘that could be you’. And it’s so tough and it’s so hard…”

“I can feel my whole body crumbling. I’m so tired, so weary all the time. I’d give anything just to sleep, sleep, just to actually not be thinking constantly, not be worrying constantly.”

Further to this…

Mr O’Connell spoke to the woman last night – after she received a call from an unidentified woman who said they wanted to pay €10,000 towards her arrears.

Mr O’Connell said, in total, some €15,000 in donations have been made to the woman in the past two days.

She told Mr O’Connell:

“I cannot believe the reaction to this. I have just spoken to a woman who wants to pay off some of the arrears on my account. A substantial amount of the arrears. What amazes me is people’s generosity. But the thing is, going through all of this, you feel so worthless. I actually feel quite bubbling inside at the moment.”

I feel, I’ve got a chance, I actually have got  a chance for the first time in years but now I’m crying again and I, but for a totally different reason. I don’t want to name the woman, in case she doesn’t want to be known but she knows we’ve just been speaking. Thank you so much, thank you and please, please know that what you have done is just I feel I can walk a little taller again.”

I cannot honestly put into words what I feel at the moment…I want to thank them so much, every single person that got in touch…people are so good. [I’ll have] a completely different Christmas. Honestly, I’ve put up my decorations. I’m smiling a bit more, I am definitely a lot more cheerful, I actually think I’m going to make it through this. I have had no hope for so long. All I’ve been thinking about ‘how long, how long more can I hold on?’ ‘Can I make it through this occasion, can I just make it through this occasion?”

Previously: ‘I’d Give Anything Just To Sleep…To Not Be Thinking Constantly, Not Be Worrying’

court_house

Cork Circuit Court

This morning.

On Today with Seán O’Rourke, hosted by Katie Hannon, journalist Brian O’Connell reported on repossession cases.

Mr O’Connell said, according to his calculations, there were at least 300 repossession cases in last few days around the country and more to come this week.

On Thursday last, there were about 25 cases in Kerry; 50 in Tipperary; 50 in Athlone last Friday; 35 in Athlone today and more taking place today in Waterford.

Readers may recall how it was reported last month that the Courts Service in Limerick had stopped publishing the dates for home repossession hearings, as a means to prevent courtroom demonstrations by anti-eviction protesters.

During his report, Mr O’Connell explained that he was in Cork Circuit Court on Wednesday last – where there were 52 cases listed – all of which involved a family home.

Mr O’Connell spoke to one woman, whose house is back in positive equity, and who was visibly upset after leaving the court. The arrears of the woman, who has five children, amount to around 30-odd thousand euro.

The woman was just after receiving an adjournment until May when Mr O’Connell spoke to her.

She said:

“I don’t know how it’s going. I’m just hoping and praying that something is going to happen; that I can sort something here…I don’t have Christmas decorations up, I don’t have any Christmas shopping done, I actually, I love Christmas, but I can’t think. You don’t think about anything else, when this is going on. It’s in the back of your head the whole time. You talk to people, you pretend everything is normal, but nothing is. And it’s, it’s like standing on quick sand. You can’t do anything.”

“My marriage broke up, obviously the financial crash, my wages shrank, I actually haven’t had a payrise since 2005, my mortgage is about €800 a month, I’m paying close to €500 a month. You don’t approach the bank anymore, do you understand? You don’t ask questions because you’re afraid to come to their attention. You just want to say quiet and, hopefully, that it’ll just, you can carry on with things for a little bit longer.”

“No, [my children] don’t know the situation. I am in pieces, my health is suffering, I am constantly stressed. I find everything so difficult. They don’t need to live like this. Your kids pick up on things, things are not good but they don’t know. My youngest, the other day, he wanted change for a collection for Focus and he said, ‘Mum, at least we’ll help some homeless person’ and I’m actually thinking ‘that could be you’. And it’s so tough and it’s so hard.”

“And it’s so difficult when you hear all these people saying ‘these people don’t pay their mortgage’. Nobody lives like this, nobody lives under this stress… and I tell you something I can feel my whole body crumbling. I’m so tired, so weary all the time. I’d give anything just to sleep, sleep, just to actually not be thinking constantly, not be worrying constantly. Every decision in your life you’d be thinking [about], your kids’ future, what they’re planning on next year. ‘I have exams this year and am I going to be in my home..my child is in her Leaving Cert..is she going to be in hotel studying?”

“…You were in the court today. Nobody talks, people just come in, they don’t talk to each other or anything. Nobody wants to tell them. I think everybody out there, you may not realise it but you actually know people in this situation. And they’re just going through this. None of my family know I’m here today. They don’t know. Nobody knows I’m here today. And I can’t, I can’t be putting this stress on my family. I know they worry about me, but they don’t, they don’t, they shouldn’t have to take this on aswell.”

“...There’s nobody to talk to, there’s nothing, do you understand? There is nobody who can tell me, it’s…what can they tell me? I can talk to them, I can tell them I’m stressed, I can say I can’t eat properly, I can’t sleep, I cannot live with this uncertainty constantly, I cannot look at my kids and not knowing where they’re going to be if they put me in a hotel. They’re looking at €200 a night to put me in a hotel. The arrears on my house are 30-odd thousand. They’re going to spend over that on me…

Listen back here in full

Previously: Out By Christmas

bedroom2

A Daft.ie ad for a one-bed flat on North Circular Road, Dublin, in May

This morning.

On RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, hosted by Keelin Shanley, RTÉ journalist Brian O’Connell spoke to a third-year female student from the west of Ireland who is studying nursing in Trinity College Dublin.

Explaining her struggle to find a place to rent, she said:

“I was fortunate to have a place until May of this year, when I was in the middle of my exams, and my landlord sold the place so I was only given two weeks’ notice. So, in the middle of my exams, I’d to go find new accommodation.”

“Looking for accommodation in Dublin is like selling your soul to the devil. A lot of places are €600-plus a month and, if you’re lucky enough to find a place that’s less than that, it’s not really appropriate for living in.”

“[One place she saw was]… a double room in an apartment and, in the kitchen, the owner of the flat slept on the couch. And you weren’t able to lock your bedroom door because the bathroom was in the bedroom [en suite]… it was €600 a month for that one.

Meanwhile, on that Rent A Room scheme, which is organised by UCD Students’ Union, TCD Students’ Union and Daft.ie and where homeowners can earn up to €12,000 a year tax free by renting out a room to students, Mr O’Connell said:

“There is an issue that students have been highlighting with me and it was that, if the room is not self-contained, for example, if it’s not a separate bedsit or a converted garage say, then you have very few rights as a tenant. You’re not covered by tenant legislation, if you simply rent a room in someone’s home.

“A tenant can refer to the Small Claims Court if you have an issue but you’re not covered by the PRTB and a lot of students were saying to me that was putting them off because they could be asked to leave at kind of a week’s notice and they’d very little tenancy rights…”

Listen back in full here

Previously: Digs Out

Meanwhile…

laura

 

To dig.

Or not to dig.

Laura Gaynor writes:

A video on the benefits of ‘digs’ (for both the student and landlord) made for Newstalk…

You dig?

V-4371-1-

You may recall how, last Tuesday, RTÉ Radio One journalist Brian O’Connell reported that Grant Thornton had sent letters to 35 tenants in the Eden residential complex in Blackrock, Cork, in January – informing them that they had to leave their property by last Friday, March 18 – as the receiver intends to sell the properties.

The notices to leave were sent after the residents’ rent was increased by 25 per cent last July.

The Eden complex has around 300 units while Grant Thornton controls 127 in total.

It’s understood 20 of the 35 homes have been vacated.

Further to Mr O’Connell’s report last Tuesday, a letter was sent out last Friday by Grant Thornton to the tenants in the receiver’s remaining properties in Eden.

Mr O’Connell reported:

“The letter references the recent media coverage, it confirms that the initial 35 units are still to be sold but, crucially, in relation to the remaining properties, Grant Thornton now say that there will be no more sales in 2016, so it will be 2017, at the earliest, before any of the other properties are sold…They say, it’s the intention now of Grant Thornton to sell the remaining properties with the tenancies in place. It says in the letter, “please be assured that your tenancy is not affected”… It’s obviously good news for the remaining tenants in the 90 or so units who were very concerned.”

However, Celso Lemos, a Brazilian father-of-two, who had lived in Eden for five years and recently moved out after receiving notice to leave in January, told Mr O’Connell:

“The residents who are staying in Eden at the moment were waiting for an eviction notice this year. Apparently they heard that no further notice will be issued… We got no letter telling us, ‘stay calm, you’re sale is going to happen at a certain time of the year’. We were not told that we could stay in our property, we were just told that you must leave. So it’s already a change from what we had. However it’s too late for us. I have moved out, along with another 20 families, and there are still a few families in the area waiting to see whether they will get an extension.”

Meanwhile, in a statement, a Grant Thornton spokesperson explained the proceeds earned from the sale of the 35 Eden properties will be used to build more properties in the development:

“The instruction as Receiver encompasses a total of 127 units plus undeveloped land within the wider Eden scheme. In response to market demand, the Receiver now plans to sell the units located at the Eden complex. The proceeds of the planned sale of these units will be utilised to fund further development of new residential housing on the Eden site. The undeveloped site has capacity to facilitate more than 100 new dwellings.”

Previously: Meanwhile In Cork

Pic: Brian O’Connell

Listen back in full here

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.47.19Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.48.47Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.48.06
From top: A letter from Grant Thornton notifying a resident of Blackrock Mews, Eden in Blackrock, Cork of a rent increase last July; a letter dated January 21, notifying the resident that they must leave the property by March 18; and Blackrock Mews, Eden

Journalist Brian O’Connell spoke to Keelin Shanley on Today with Seán O’Rourke this morning about how some residents renting in the Eden residential complex in Blackrock, Cork – which has around 300 units in total – have been told they must leave their property by Friday.

Grant Thornton – which controls 127 units in the Eden complex – told Mr O’Connell that it sent letters to 35 residents in January telling them they needed to vacate their apartment by March 18, 2016.

The letters sent in January followed letters sent last July, notifying the residents of a 25 per cent increase in rent.

Mr O’Connell explained:

The land was formally owned by the Ursuline order, they put the convent and 22 acres up for sale in 2001 and it was bought for €13million. Planning was secured for up to 550 units and they were going to convert the main convent building to apartments. That undeveloped land was then sold on for a reported €30million to Pierce Construction and they were to develop the large-scale Eden residential development. It was launched in 2005. Apartments at the peak were about €330,000 each.

In 2010, Michael McAteer, from Grant Thornton, was appointed as a receiver by IBRC for part of the development and that encompassed 127 units, plus some of the undeveloped land – so about a third of the development came under control of Gran Thornton as a receiver.

It’s a very desirable location, it’s close to Blackrock, also close to the new IT hub in Mahon Point. Rent for a three-bed apartment was in an around €1,000 per month but in recent weeks some tenants have been told that there’s to be a sale of the units and they’ve been given eight weeks to leave their properties.

One tenant, Celso Lemos, a Brazilian father-of-two, has lived in Eden for five years. Mr O’Connell reported that Mr Lemos heard rumours that something was happening after Christmas but he found it hard to get information.

Mr Lemos said:

“They wouldn’t give me information. They would give me bits and pieces here and there but I had to leave because I got a letter, in mid to late January. We were given the statutory eight weeks to leave the property and there wasn’t much negotiation whatsoever…just a crude letter saying, ‘please leave by the 18th of March’.”

Mr Lemos said he’s now trying to convince his wife to move to either Holland or Germany, or move back to Brazil.

In response to questions from Mr O’Connell about the rent increase, a spokesperson from Grant Thornton said:

“Rents during 2015 (the process started April 2015) were realigned to market rental levels and tenants were all provided with adequate notice on same. A number of rental increase cases were lodged by tenants to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB)  and in each case the rent increase was upheld. The PRTB confirmed all requests for increases were in line with Market Rental levels.”

“In advance of the Receiver issuing notice to tenants, the Receiver waited until the amendment of the Residential Tenancies Act was enacted in December 2015. This act increased the notice periods to be provided to tenants thus ensured the maximum period was provided in cases where vacant possession was sought.”

The spokesperson added:

“Lisney Estate Agents based in Cork has been appointed as the sales agent and any tenants who have shown interest in purchasing their property have been directed to Lisney.”

Listen back in full here

Previously: “It’s Just The Beginning”

Pics: Brian O’Connell

eircode

An Post spent €2.4million preparing the way for it and the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources tell me “An Post were actively involved in every stage of Eircode, from design through to dissemination.”

“So I asked An Post how many people were using Eircode as part of their addresses. Now they initially said to me, in their response that the usage was low.”

“And I suppose low could mean several hundred thousand pieces of mail, so I went back to clarify what we’re talking about in terms of low and they did say that ‘we’re talking about single digit usage in percentage terms’ so less than 10% are using it.”

“I asked An Post how does it work actually, in practice, because I was being told by a number of postal workers, off the record that they don’t have any way of interpreting the code... Postal workers were telling me, Seán, that sometimes they might use their own smartphone to check the codes from time to time.”

“But that really was about it. And I asked An Post how it worked out. For example, if you have an address that’s incomplete but if there is a postcode on the letter, how does it work? And they said that the Eircode on the address can be recognised by sorting equipment, so that’s centrally, and from then on the post person uses the postal address, not the Eircode, to complete the delivery.”

“And they say that it was never intended that the postal address, that postal staff would spend time checking every letter, or any of them, as part of the standard delivery work procedure…”

RTÉ One journalist Brian O’Connell during a report on the controversial Eircode system for the Today with Seán O’Rourke show

Following on from Mr O’Connell’s report, Minister for Communications Alex White was interviewed by Mr O’Rourke.

Seán O’Rourke: “This is something that you feel is worth the, well it now seems like a €50million investment?”

Alex White: “Well I don’t know where the €50million comes from but…”

O’Rourke: “Well €38m and the €12m between the…”

White: “Yeah…I don’t know about the…”

O’Rourke: “€38m from the Comptroller and Auditor General..”

White: “€27million was paid out and then, you know, the Comptroller and Auditor General pointed out that you have to add in the cost of external consultants, you have to add in, you have to put a price on the cost of my staff, the staff in my department, which wasn’t in factored in, and there’s VAT. So certainly there’s a  cost here and I don’t doubt that there’s a cost but I think that it’s a very, very worthwhile investment for this country, a critical piece of public infrastructure…”

Readers may wish to note that Mr O’Rourke never asked Mr White about the particular concerns raised in the C&AG report in relation to non-competitive tendering during the hiring of consultants for the Eircode project.

Good times.

Previously: Eircode And A Pattern Of Non-Competitive Tenders For Consultants

Listen back to the report in full here

court_house

Cork Circuit Court

RTE journalist Brian O’Connell attended Cork Circuit Court yesterday where there were more than 100 home repossession cases listed. He spoke with some of the people who were going before the court for the Today With Seán O’Rourke show this morning.

After hearing people tell their personal stories, Mr O’Rourke asked if anyone had been evicted during yesterday’s proceedings.

Seán O’Rourke: “As a matter of interest, were there cases where people were evicted from their homes or where their homes were repossessed against their will?”

Brian O’Connell: “Not yesterday, Seán. I suppose it was the first day back so people were telling me, legal people I spoke to said, it was unlikely any order would have been made yesterday. That they’d put it back to December. They’re expecting November, December to start seeing those cases, sometimes they’re grouped together.”

Early election so.

Listen back in full here

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 13.34.35

A Syria-born man (above), who does not wish to be identified, has been living in Ireland for 13 years and was recently reunited with his wife and son when they moved here under a Government reunification scheme.

The man has a business in Cork and is now an Irish citizen.

He spoke with journalist Brian O’Connell on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Seán O’Rourke yesterday.

He said since his wife arrived, she has been subjected to harassment and abuse and that she hasn’t left her house in several weeks.

“My wife, she says, “if I’m dying in Syria better than being like this situation by racism”. It’s very, very hard for her. She miscarried last week from this. They knock on the door every time, they frighten her, they shout at her when I am not at home, they shout in [through] the door, they throw rocks.”

“Last week, she miscarried from this situation, she was pregnant, you know. She was only five weeks’ pregnant…[After living in Ireland for 13 years] I have had too many [such experiences] but now it’s getting worse… because my [Muslim] wife she has a veil. In this area, I think, they’re not used to see something like this because it’s, I don’t know, strange for them. That’s why it’s so hard, they keep staring at her.”

….Every two or three days, they throw rubbish in my garden, say very bad words to me, very, very bad words. And one neighbour he told me, “Go home to your country, you’re rats, you this, you that”. I don’t want to say it on the radio….”

Meanwhile…

Listen back in full here

Yay!

Previously: Extra Provision

“He Took Me Around Some Bushes”