Tenant wins landmark case against Limerick retirement village

The Park Retirement Village Castletroy

A FORMER University of Limerick Professor has won a landmark case with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), who has ordered that he can only be evicted if he breaches the terms of his tenancy.

But while Dr Kevin Ryan (73) says he is happy to have won the case and established security of tenure for himself, as well as set a precedent for other tenants to do likewise, he believes specific legal protection for tenants of retirement homes must be enacted.

“Retirement home tenants are particularly vulnerable. They are subject to the same regulations under which landlords in any property can evict the tenants if they want the property for a relative or to refurbish or sell. You cannot fight these measures and we need legal protection for these villages, which they have in other countries,” Dr Ryan told the Limerick Post.

The former professor at the University of Limerick, who lives in the Park Village in Castletroy, took a case to the RTB against the landlord company, Castletroy Retirement Village Operations Limited.

Dr Ryan had been fighting with the landlord company since they took over, having bought the property from a vulture fund, on behalf of the mainly elderly tenants who moved into the Castletroy campus under a verbal agreement and understanding that they could live out their days there.

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But the new landlords have been issuing eviction notices and increasing rents, as well as axing vital services and benefits which tenants say were part of the package they signed up to, many having sold their family home to move in.

The RTB hearing found that Dr Ryan had overpaid rent for two years, at a rate of €44 per month, and ordered the landlord to repay him €1,056.

In Dr Ryan’s case, the RTB ruled that the tenancy can only be ended by the landlord in circumstances where he fails to pay rent or is in breach of his obligations.

Dr Ryan also complained about the removal of certain facilities at the Castletroy retirement village.

He says a clubhouse was shown to him before he moved into the property in May 2018, describing it as “the social heart of the community”. It contained a recreation room with a small library, internet and television, he explained, and Mass, yoga, cookery classes, and table quizzes were also held there.

But by October 2019, residents could no longer avail of the tea, coffee, and scones previously offered, and some activities were withdrawn, according to Dr Ryan.

He stated that more than half of the clubhouse had been changed into a two-bed apartment and there was now no internet, no computer, no daily newspapers, and no tea.

Mr Seamus Madden, a director of the company, said the provision of tea and coffee “created insurance issues”.

Another director, Ms Edel Madden, stated the clubhouse was available for social and recreational use, and that the company was trying to introduce new activities.

She said there were refreshments in the form of snacks and biscuits, describing the service as “over and above what normal landlords provide”.

The RTB accepted evidence from the landlord regarding the reduction of services being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and assurances that efforts were ongoing to reintroduce social activities.

However, it awarded €400 in damages to Dr Ryan.

As the issue played out, Dr Ryan said he had been accused of various things, including being a liar and putting the welfare of elderly people at risk.

In addition to the monetary compensation, the landlords legal representative said they were willing to tender an apology for the stress he had suffered.

“The bottom line is that my fellow tenants can reference this ruling and Threshold can do likewise when they are taking cases to RTB,” he said.

“But they still have to fight eviction notices as individuals – people in their eighties and nineties. The RTB has no power to hear class actions. We need legislation and we have raised this with local and national politicians on numerous occasions but we still have elderly tenants without automatic security of tenure.”