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Monday 25 September 2017

Builders ordered to replace roof of 'toxic' house that 'left children sick'

Shane and Antoinette Aodhan O’Faolain O’Reilly have been living in rented accommodation for seven years after being advised to leave their home. Photo: Collins
Shane and Antoinette Aodhan O’Faolain O’Reilly have been living in rented accommodation for seven years after being advised to leave their home. Photo: Collins

The builders of a house that a couple and their young children were forced to leave seven years ago due to sickness allegedly caused by "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, for the O'Reillys, told the court that the couple had moved into the three-bedroom duplex property at Millrace Crescent, Saggart, Co Dublin, in 2005 after buying it for €280,000.

They claimed property defects that had not been rectified - including condensation, mould and fungus growth caused by poor ventilation in the attic and bedrooms - resulted in their two young sons developing respiratory infections.

The O'Reillys 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 did 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.

Negligence

The couple sought damages of approximately €97,000 for alleged negligence and breach of duty, including that the defendants failed to ensure the property was free from defects that 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.

The family 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'Reillys 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, he added.

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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