A pensioner who put a family he was renting a house from through “a living hell” by refusing to pay rent for over a year and cutting away the rafters on the roof in an effort to make the property unsellable has been given a week to raise compensation.
Audrey O’Mahony told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Denis O’Connor (67) had put her family through “a never-ending nightmare” after he began renting their cottage at Ballinspittle, Co Cork from them six years ago.
In evidence heard by Judge Sean O'Donnabhain she said that she believed that Mr O'Connor intended to obtain permanent possession of their house without paying them.
"He is not the least bit sorry for what he has put us through. His actions against us are inexcusable, cruel and downright wrong,” she said.
Mr O’Connor of Hillside, Cappagh, Kinsale, Co Cork pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage to the house by removing roof rafters and damaging floors and various fittings at the O’Mahonys’ property at Duneen, Ballinvredig, Ballinspittle, Co Cork, on dates between December 5th, 2015, and July 23rd, 2018.
Mr O'Connor also pleaded guilty to the theft of a fitted kitchen worth €1,000, which he removed from the single storey cottage to replace with his own kitchen. Bizarrely he then removed this kitchen when he left the property, leaving the house without a functioning area to prepare food.
Garda Cormac Dineen said that the O’Mahony’s had moved from the cottage in Ballinspittle to their new home in Clonakilty. They put their original home on the rental market.
Mr O’Connor, who is a handyman by profession, began renting the property in 2015. He agreed to carry out some minor repair works with the consent of the owners.
Bill for damage
However, the court heard that the family did not give him permission to carry out some of the works completed. This included the removal of 27 roof rafters and taking up a hall floor leaving the family with a bill for damage of €16,000.
Garda Dineen said that Mr O’Connor finally moved out of the property more than a year after he had stopped paying rent to the O’Mahonys.
Defence barrister Donal O'Sullivan BL said his client was a discharged bankrupt who was apologetic for his actions.
Ms O’Mahony said she believed he deliberately damaged the house, so they couldn’t sell it to anyone else but him at a reduced price.
Ms O’Mahony said that it was almost four years since Mr O’Connor threatened that “things were going to get nasty” and in that time he had made their lives “a living hell.”
“Our worst fear became a reality when we finally got our home back – on that morning, July 23rd, 2018, my world caved in on top of me – the discovery of the very serious and dangerous damage to the attic where he removed 27 rafters was the last draw,” she said.
Homelessness was high on my mind at that time – we feared we would lose both the rental house and our own family home if we could not sell the rental and pay our escalating linked mortgages debt to the bank – our despair was overwhelming – we were trapped in a never-ending nightmare.”
Ms O’Mahony told how the financial strain left the family with no choice but to cut back on groceries, clothing and heating. Such was the stress she was under that she collapsed and was taken to hospital.
Judge Ó Donnabháin told the court he had huge sympathy for Ms O’Mahony.
Defence barrister Donal O'Sullivan said that his client had paid €2,500 in compensation and expected to be in a position to borrow the rest of the monies owed to the O'Mahony family from a friend in the next week.
The judge agreed to adjourn the case until April 22nd to allow for the remaining compensation funds to be raised. He remanded Mr O'Connor in continuing custody until his next court appearance.