In the recent decision of the High Court (on appeal) in Bank of Ireland v Hanley, the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court to determine repossession proceedings was confirmed where the property in question was not separately rateable. This decision was in direct contrast to another recent High Court decision on the same issue.
The bank had obtained a Circuit Court Order for possession of an investment residential property. The Order was appealed to the High Court by the Defendants on the grounds that the Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction to determine the proceedings where the Bank had not established that the rateable valuation of the property fell within the Circuit Court’s statutory jurisdiction.
The relevant legislation provides that the Circuit Court has original jurisdiction to determine ejectment or repossession proceedings subject to certain jurisdictional thresholds, one of which relates to rateable valuation. The legislation further provides that where the rateable valuation of the property in question exceeds the amount of €254, the High Court enjoys jurisdiction (in the absence of agreement between the parties). As a consequence, a practice had emerged whereby plaintiffs bringing applications for repossession in the Circuit Court would typically provide evidence (for example a valuation certificate) that the rateable valuation of the property in question was less than €254.
In this case, the bank had sought to adduce evidence from the rating authority that although the relevant property was not separately rated, if it had been, the rateable valuation of the property would be significantly less than the €254 threshold. The defendants on appeal argued that this did not establish that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction with regard to the rateable valuation and therefore the Order should be quashed.
The High Court on appeal held that, although the bank had failed to provide satisfactory evidence regarding the rateable valuation of the property, the Circuit Court had jurisdiction to determine such proceedings unless evidence was provided to establish that the rateable valuation of the property was in excess of the statutory Circuit Court threshold of €254. The High Court specifically held that the relevant legislation "does not require that the property in issue has a rateable valuation in order to confer jurisdiction on the Circuit Court. However, absent such proof being adduced by the plaintiff, he takes the risk that the Circuit Court or the High Court on appeal may be deprived of jurisdiction if the defendant establishes that there is a rateable valuation and it exceeds the statutory limit".
This decision is in contrast to another recent decision of the High Court which had found that the Circuit Court only had jurisdiction once it had been established that the rateable valuation fell within the statutory threshold. The High Court judge noted that this is an unsatisfactory situation and it remains to be seen if the Court of Appeal will have the opportunity in the future to determine this issue.