Court decides Brian O'Driscoll's holiday home should have water restored when fee paid
IRISH rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll and a number of other Wexford holiday home owners should have water restored to their properties once they have paid €2,000 each to a management company they are in dispute with, a judge has ruled.
Mr O'Driscoll is among the owners of 32 houses which are part of the Seafield Demesne Hotel and Golf development in Ballymoney where there has been an ongoing dispute with Seafield Demesne Management (SDM) Ltd over the amount of the annual service charge.
Only those used as holiday homes, and not those permanently occupied, had their water supply cut off last March, the High Court heard.
There are 60 houses in total in the development.
Today Mr Justice Kevin Feeney granted the owners of 32 of the houses an injunction ordering SDM not to interfere with the water and sewage services to the houses.
He also ordered SDM to restore the water supply within seven days to those which were cut off on payment of €2,000 each by them to SDM.
This figure, totalling €64,000, was what the owners had offered to pay SDM at the beginning of the injunction hearing pending the outcome of the full legal proceedings.
The court heard around €207,000 had already been paid under protest by the owners into their own solicitors covering four years of charges upto 2011 which was the minimum SDM claimed was owed by them.
The judge said the €64,000 sum should come out of this €207,000 and the remaining €143,000 should then be lodged in a joint account between solicitors for both parties pending resolution of the dispute.
The court heard separate proceedings have been brought in Wexford Circuit Court by SDM against the owners over the alleged arrears and the owners had counter-claimed in the same court against SDM.
The judge was also told efforts are being made to resolve the matter through mediation.
In their injunction application, the owners contended SDM had failed to properly itemise and justify the charges it imposed.
SDM argued the charges were agreed when the houses were purchased and it had continued to supply services for years, which were more than just water and sewage, even though certain owners had failed to pay for them.
In his ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Feeney said there was a lower risk of an injustice by granting the injunction rather than refusing it.
SDM was already put to the expense of supplying water to certain houses which are permanently occupied and the additional cost of doing that for the remainder would be modest, he said.
This had been a prolonged and difficult dispute and it was not until after the Circuit Court proceedings started that SDM, while it was within its entitlement to do so, unilaterally cut the water supply, he said.
He also said closing down the water supply effectively interfered with the sewage services making it very difficult for the houses to be used for even a short period of time.