Last year I did a story (t'isn't online) about how a raft of suppliers were suing the Hanly Group for unpaid debts. One of Hanly's building companies, Laragan Developments, have in turn tried to sue a lot of house buyers through the High Court. The builders were trying to get buyers to complete purchases agreed in 2006/07 and to pay those 2006/07 prices. Some of the buyers don't want to buy because of the huge prices drops in the last few years but many more can't get the mortgage approval they had secured from the banks two or three years ago.
Many other people bought homes off plans a few years ago from developers expecting them to be completed and ready to move in to by now. Unfortunately, and this has happened to more builders than just Hanly, the developers have got in to financial trouble and construction has stalled.
Ordinary punters have been left with 15,000 euro deposits tied up in developments which may never be completed. The standard Construction Industry Federation (CIF) contract that they signed offers little protection for buyers.
I spoke to about a dozen people who are in this situation with a development called Milner's Square in Santry in Dublin. All wouldn't speak publicly because they were afraid of prejudicing future legal action with Hanly/Laragan, the developers.
For a newspaper often a story will only work if a person is willing to go "on the record" - to be quoted and possibly photographed. A story with a living, breathing and named case-study always carries more punch (and gets more space in the paper).
So when I hear "I need to see if it's ok with with my solicitor first". That always means no. Solicitors and barristers in 99% of cases advise clients not to speak to the press in advance of court hearings because of a mortal fear of "prejudicing the case". I think that translates in to "we don't want to piss off a judge".
Anyway, thankfully Ann St Leger agreed to speak to me about her awful experience in Milner's Square. She is a good example of how young couples are being affected by the downturn. Ann and her partner can't even walk away from their 15,000 euro deposit because Hanly says it will pursue them for the full cost of the apartment in the High Court.
Things for the developer and the buyers in this story don't seem to getting any bettter. Velfac, a window supplier for Hanly/Laragan, got fed up waiting to be paid and sought to have Laragan Developments wound up by the High Court.
Now its seems the builder is insolvent and is seeking examinership.