Monday 19 March 2018

Builders ordered to replace roof after young family get sick due to mould and fungus in €280k home

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Aodhan O'Faolain

The builders of a house, which a couple and their young children were forced to leave seven years ago because of sickness allegedly due to “toxic” mould and fungus, have been ordered by a High Court judge to replace the roof.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy ruled that Shane and Antoinette O’Reilly were entitled to the costs of having to rent alternative accommodation but were not entitled to damages because of the extensive other reliefs directed by the court.

Seamus O Tuathail, SC, who appeared with John Gibbons, SC and barrister Dolores Keane for the O'Reilly's, told the court that the couple had bought and moved into a three bedroom duplex at Millrace Crescent, Saggart, Co Dublin in 2005 for €280,000.

They claimed property defects which had not been rectified, including condensation, mould and fungus growth caused by poor ventilation in the attic and bedrooms, allegedly resulting in their two young sons having developed respiratory infections.

The O'Reilly's had obtained medical test results in June 2010 showing one of their children had a mass on one of his lungs and they had been advised to leave the property which they had done in August 2010.

They sued the builders and developers of the property, builders Seamus, Liam, Colm, Anthony and Brendan Neville and William Neville and Sons, a building and development company trading as the Neville Development Partnership.

The couple sought damages of approximately €97,000 for alleged negligence, breach of duty including that the defendants failed to ensure the property was free from defects which would endanger the O'Reilly family's health.

All the defendants, based in Co Wexford, denied the claims and said they made an open offer to repair anything that might be wrong with the property. This had been refused by the O'Reillys who had been living in rented accommodation since.

They claimed they had problems with leaks, inappropriate ventilation, water ingress on the property's balconies, insulation and cracks in the building from the time they took up residence. On one occasion the bath in the house collapsed and dropped a few inches, it was claimed.

Mr Justice Binchy said the presence of mould in the attic space was entirely attributable to extraordinarily poor workmanship in the ventilation of the attic space and in failing to insulate a ventilation pipe leading from the en-suite bathroom through the attic. These had been rudimentary matters of construction and failure to attend to them had led to a build-up of unhealthy mould in the attic space.

He said the O Reilly’s were entitled to re-enter their home in the knowledge that matters relating to the mould have been addressed. The fairest solution was that the defendants replace the roof. 

The Judge added that, while the parties had been entitled to take their case to court, in his view arbitration would have been a more suitable form of resolution because of the technical nature of the matters in dispute.

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