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raise the roof Nightmare tenant who removed the rafters on rented home avoids prison after causing €16k in damage

Property owners faced ‘living hell’

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A nightmare tenant who put a family through "living hell" by cutting the rafters on a rented house causing €16,000 in damage in a bid to force the owners to sell him the property at a bargain price has received a two year suspended sentence.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin warned Denis O'Connor he had caused "devastation" to the property owner Audrey O'Mahony and her loved ones.

O'Connor - who had been remanded in custody since February - received the suspended sentence after Judge Ó Donnabháin was told he had paid €13,000 in compensation to the O'Mahony family.

The 67-year-old of Hillside, Cappagh, Kinsale, Co Cork, began renting the cottage at Ballinspittle, Co Cork, six years ago.

Ms O'Mahony told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that she believed O'Connor intended to obtain permanent possession of their house by unethical means.

"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.

O’Connor pleaded guilty to a single charge of causing criminal damage to the house by removing roof rafters and damaging floors and various fittings at the Duneen, Ballinspittle, property between December 5 2015 and July 23 2018.

He had also removed a fitted kitchen from the house.

Garda Cormac Dineen said that the O’Mahony family had moved from the cottage in Ballinspittle to their new home in Clonakilty.

They then put their original home on the rental market.

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.

However, the court heard that the family did not give him permission to carry out some of the major 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.

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Garda Dineen said that O’Connor finally moved out of the property more than a year after he had stopped paying rent to the O’Mahony family.

Defence counsel Donal O'Sullivan BL said his client was very apologetic for his actions.

His client had handed over €13,000 in compensation to the family.

Ms O’Mahony said that O’Connor deliberately damaged the house so they couldn’t sell it to anyone else but him at a reduced price.

She said that it was almost four years since 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 23 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 straw,” 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 mortgage 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 at one point she collapsed and was rushed to hospital.

Judge Ó Donnabháin told the court he had huge sympathy for what the O’Mahony family had gone through.

He said that in spite of the compensation paid to the family he was still "singularly unimpressed" by the demeanour of the defendant in court.

"I heard all of the evidence and am aware of the devastation and damage caused to the householder. The householder was very much at risk from Denis O'Connor. He was let in there (to the house) in good faith. The damage and distress caused to the couple was epic,” he warned.

However, he said he had to take into consideration the payment of compensation, O'Connor's plea and his previous good behaviour.

He imposed a fully suspended two year prison sentence.

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