THREE families awarded over €1m after their homes suffered serious damage following "abysmal building practices" fear they will never see the money they are owed.
The massive payout was awarded at the High Court by Mr Justice Gerard Hogan who said he was sending his judgment to Environment Minister Phil Hogan to highlight the policy issues in home building raised by the case.
The houses in question were built in Ocean Links estate in Strandhill, Co Sligo, in the early 2000s by Mulvey Developments.
Among those who purchased homes were Michael Mitchell and his wife Margo, who took the case against the Mulvey firm and Thomas Mulvey, as well as the supervising engineer during building Stephen Garvey and company Design Development Ltd.
The court heard the Mitchells' home suffered from a "legacy of disasters" which included water stains forming on the ceilings only one month after moving in.
Later, when the necessary repairs were not carried out in time, the Mitchells' three children complained it was "raining" in their play room.
An inspection by the family's own engineer revealed defects, including lack of a damp course in certain areas, inadequate or defective flashing on tiling, and a lack of insulation in part of a cavity wall, on pipes and on the water tank.
He found the responsibility for the problems lay with the builders and the supervising engineers and said the lowest standard of work had been done.
This "catalogue of miseries" gravely impacted on the Mitchells, including the fact that the master bedroom was so cold Ms Mitchell had to wear a ski cap to keep warm before eventually moving out of that room, the judge said.
None of the firms defended the case and judgment had previously been entered.
He awarded €424,290 to the Mitchells, including repairs of €202,000.
But last night Mr Mitchell said he feared he would never see the money owed because the companies are no longer trading.
"It potentially could be a hollow victory if we don't get anyone to pay for this. Was it worth going to court after all this? Hopefully it will be, but really it remains to be seen," he told the Irish Independent.
"The thing is I've committed no crime here ... I happened to buy a house that was badly built," Mr Mitchell added.
"Where was the Government? Where was the regulation for building these houses?"
Another case taken against the National House Building Guarantee Company Ltd, which operates the 'Homebond', is pending.
Ciaran Adams and Niamh Deasy also took a case and were awarded €424,805, including €165,000 for repairs to their four-bed, semi-detached home.
Mr Adams said there was a litany of problems with his home including "inferior foundations". He said the ruling was a "step in the right direction".
A third plaintiff, Mary Brett, found huge cracks in her walls and parts of the floor gave way under her among "wholesale violations", according to an engineer's report.
She was awarded €250,175, including €125,000 for repairs.
Six similar claims by other householders are pending.