In a recent decision by Judge James McCourt of the Circuit Civil Court, Dylan Mooney and his family were allowed to keep their home in St Kevin’s Villas, Sallynoggin. This decision was met with applause by friends of the family and the agreement of People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett and Councillor Melisa Halpen, who had supported the family.
Mooney’s wife, Gemma, burst into tears following Judge McCourt’s decision to overturn an order of the District Court. The District Court had ordered her husband to hand back their home to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, which would have left the family with nowhere to live and their eight-month-old baby on the street. Mr Boyd Barrett said: “I think this a right and just decision and prevents a family being made homeless. Clearly this was their family home.”
The court was told that Mr Mooney’s mother came home from the hospital in the last week of her fight against cancer to die in the presence of her family in the St Kevin’s Villas home where she had lived with her son from his birth. “She was more comforting to us than we were to her,” Mr Mooney said. “There is a very sentimental attachment of our family with the house.”
In order for consideration of a new tenancy, Mr Mooney had to meet the council’s housing allocation policy whereby he had to have lived for five years in the house prior to his mother’s death or to have lived for at least 10 of the 15 years prior to her death. The council claimed he failed to meet all of the criteria, missing the 10-year requirement by a year and eight months. He had moved back into the house following his mother’s death and had been joined by his wife and two children. The baby had been born following their move without confirmation of any new tenancy.
The council described Mr Mooney as a trespasser and had been granted a possession order in the District Court. Judge McCourt told Mr Beatty, who appeared with Daly Khurshid Solicitors, that he was satisfied Mr Mooney had lived in the house for the required amount of time to satisfy the council’s house allocation criteria. He had lived in the property for eight years and 10 months as an adult and for more than the alleged shortfall of 14 months as a minor.
“It is accepted by the council that Mr Mooney had been included in the rent assessment for his mother which is a significant factor,” Judge McCourt said. “I have enormous sympathy with any housing authority in trying to distribute meagre supplies of houses to satisfy the overwhelming demand. It is akin to the distribution of the five loaves and two fishes. There aren’t enough houses to go around and it is not the fault of local authorities. I don’t like to see anyone skipping a queue, but I don’t accept that Mr Mooney was a trespasser.”
Judge McCourt said the question was whether it was proportionate and reasonable to grant what was an eviction order and it was his view that it would be disproportionate and unreasonable in all of the circumstances, and he would allow Mr Mooney’s appeal but would not make an order for costs against the county council.
“These are difficult cases, but the facts in this case are unique. I have a lot of sympathy for councils which have little or no houses and yet have to deal with a problem not of their making. It is all very unfortunate, but I do not think any use would be served by making an eviction order,” he said.