AN estate agent invited by a couple to look at their three-year old home with a view selling it asked if they had a ball or an orange to roll across the floor because he suspected the house was lopsided, the High Court heard.
The agent turned out to be correct and the house at the Sallows, Letterbarrow, Donegal, owned by parents of five, Karen and Francis Carr, was never put up for sale.
"People who visit the house say they are sick when they are in it, that it is like being on a boat," Mrs Carr told the court earlier today.
The Carrs have sued engineer Gerard Duke claiming he failed to spot the foundation of their house had been defectively laid resulting in the lopsideness.
Mr Duke, of Duke Associates, Consulting Engineers, Donegal Town, denies the claim. He says he was not employed in a day-to-day supervisory capacity but only on the basis of periodic inspections, of which carried out seven at €140 each.
The Carrs say Mr Dukes was negligent and in breach of duty by failing to inspect the foundations or remedy the defects.
They say they were left with a €100,000 mortgage for a house now valued at €30,000, but which is in fact unsaleable to someone needing a mortgage to buy it. Their auctioneer said it is livable in, not dangerous, and might be sold as a holiday home to someone who could invest upto €90,000 remedying the defects Luán O Braonáin SC, for the Carrs, said in opening the case yesterday that Mr Duke entered a contract with the couple to obtain planning permission for the two-storey house, which was built in 2003/4, and also provide supervisory/inspection services along with certification under planning and building regulations.
There would be evidence the house was built on a wet and boggy area which would be apparent to anyone, but particularly an engineer, counsel said.
In 2007, the Carrs consulted an estate agent about selling the house as they wanted to live nearer the facilities of Donegal town. But when the agent called, he asked Mrs Carr if she had a ball or orange to roll across the floor. When this was done, it confirmed to the agent the house was lopsided, counsel said.
They had hoped to get €230,000 at the time for their home but today, because of the defects, it is valued at around €30,000 and the Carrs still have an outstanding €100,000 mortgage on it.
"He (the estate agent) told me it was in no shape to go on the market", Mrs Carr told the court.
The family still live in the house and Mrs Carr said that because of the problem, they have to put stops on the internal doors to keep them open.
"We have to keep my daughter's bed against the wall because if you put it in the middle of the floor it will move across", she said.
They had to replace three toilet cisterns because they had cracked, she said.
While she did not feel sick in the house, some visitors had said they feel sick and that "it was like being on a boat".
Under cross examination by Gary Fitzgerald BL, for Mr Duke, Mrs Carr said the building was done by direct labour whereby they (Carrs) directly employed builders and tradesmen.
She disagreed it was her responsibility to either have engaged Mr Dukes on a supervisory basis or spent an extra €50,000 paying a building contractor to carry out all works.
While she had noticed the problem with the doors closing before the estate agent pointed out the problem, she did not believe before this there was anything wrong with the house because "we had done everything right" and got certification.
The hearing continues.