Northern Ireland

Man loses NI vesting test case in Belfast's Village area

Village street names
Image caption The homes are in south Belfast's Village area

A man in negative equity after his home was vested in south Belfast has lost a test case over compensation.

Joel Kerr was left owing almost £50,000 and wanted the Lands Tribunal to order the Housing Executive to pay it.

Mr Kerr took out a £150,000 mortgage to buy a house in Moltke Street, in the Village area, in 2007.

Three years later, compulsory purchase orders were used to acquire it and 500 other homes to make way for redevelopment.

Mr Kerr received £91,000 in compensation.

Under the rules of the scheme, the Housing Executive only pays the market rate for compulsory purchases.

On Thursday, the Lands Tribunal ruled that losses suffered by Mr Kerr were directly related to the downturn in the property market.

'Excessive burden'

His lawyer had argued compensation to the full value of the house should be paid and not just market value at the time it was taken off him.

It was claimed that under European human rights law the compulsory purchase had imposed an excessive burden on Mr Kerr.

But, Lord Justice Sir Patrick Coghlin, who presided over the case, ruled that the loss was directly based on a drop in land values which occurred well before vesting.

"The loss that has been sustained by the applicant resulted from the disastrous collapse of the property market which had occurred before, and independently of, the vesting order," Lord Justice Coghlin said.

He did, however, award Mr Kerr his legal costs after acknowledging the importance of the case.

He added that it may be appropriate for the Department for Social Development to review part of its policy to deal with those in negative equity in such redevelopment areas.

Outside the court Mr Kerr, a business development worker for an online learning company, said he would now have to try to negotiate with his bank.

"I'm going to have to figure out how to finance the shortfall," he added.

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