Couple claim newly built home uninhabitable due to structural defects

Des and Anne Cavanagh suing Spring Homes and engineer over Dundalk house

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan at the Four Courts directed that the case  must now proceed with speed.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan at the Four Courts directed that the case must now proceed with speed. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A couple have claimed they were unable to live in their newly built home for many years because of alleged structural defects.

Des and Anne Cavanagh paid €385,000 in 2006 to Spring Homes Developments Ltd to build a new house for them at Seabrook, Dromiskin, Dundalk, Co Louth, the High Court heard.

Within months of completion, around March 2007, they claim significant structural and other defects emerged. They claim large cracks appeared in the walls and nails began to pop out of the ground-floor ceilings. On investigation by engineers, it was discovered stud partition walls on the first floor were supporting the roof as structural walls when they were not capable of doing so, it is claimed.

Floor joists were allegedly too far apart and required bridging support, and other serious defects were also allegedly identified. They sued Spring Homes and engineer Martin Curran who they say provided a manifestly wrong compliance-with-building regulations opinion.

The house comprised three floors including an attic space and was sold to them on the basis that all floors were habitable when no permission was obtained for the attic room, they claim. Mr Curran claimed any opinions provided by him were not in a personal capacity but as an employee of another company, Keough Curran Ltd, which was retained by Spring Homes.

He claims he owes the Cavanaghs no duty. He also argues liability remains with Spring Homes, which was dissolved but later restored to the companies register, and against which Mr Curran has claimed an indemnity.

Close association

The Cavanaghs claim there is a close association between Mr Curran and Spring Homes. He was, they claim, in effect the builder of the house. Mr Curran gives his home address as Seabrook and is a near neighbour of the Cavanaghs, they claim. He was intimately involved in the running of Spring Homes and the construction of the property, the Cavanaghs claim.

Mr Curran asked the High Court to strike out the Cavanaghs’ case on grounds of a four-year delay in progressing it. They opposed the application. On Tuesday, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said the periods of delay involved were inordinate and the Cavanaghs had provided no satisfactory explanation for the delay. However, the balance of justice was against striking out the Cavanaghs’ case, the judge ruled.

Although Mr Curran had pointed to a four-year gap when nothing was happening from his perspective, it was clear the events during this period were “directly attributable to his influence” over Spring Homes which was the source of some of the delay, he said.

The judge noted the Cavanaghs availed of structural defects insurance provided by Spring Homes and certain works were carried out but they say they were unable to live in the property for many years despite these works. The case must now proceed with speed, the judge directed.