Web Summit challenges €20,000 payout over flooding of rented house for staff

Web Summit Challenges €20,000 Payout Over Flooding Of Rented House For Staff
Web Summit claimed the flooding was caused by structural defects in the property. Photo: AFP via Getty
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High Court reporter

The High Court has been urged to overturn a finding that Web Summit pays €20,000 to a landlord for damage caused to a house in Dublin that the company rents for its staff.

A Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) tribunal awarded the landlord €20,000 after it found that the damage from flooding was caused by non-normal use of the kitchen sink due to coffee granules, grease and other food waste blocking the drain pipe.


Web Summit Services has rented Strathmore, a five-bedroom house in Dartry since July 2015 to provide accommodation for new and visiting staff who work for the Dublin-based global tech and business conference organiser. The rent was €3,900 per month.

Landlord Aidan Hall brought a case before the RTB last year seeking damages for flooding in the property in 2021.

Web Summit had to move out for two weeks to allow work to be carried out. The damage from flooding meant replacing all the ground-floor tiles, joinery, skirting boards, water-damaged plasterboard, timber-flooring and the underfloor heating system, the landlord claimed.

A drain cleaning company said a blockage was caused to the kitchen sink by coffee granules, grease and other food being put down the drain The landlord claimed the cost of the repairs was some €100,000 although he accepted the maximum the RTB could award was €20,000.


Web Summit, which claimed the flooding was caused by structural defects in the property, said the landlord’s figure was extraordinary and extortionate. It estimated the repairs cost was between €8,000 and €12,000.

An RTB adjudicator awarded Mr Hall €14,633, having deducted €5,310 for the cost of Web Summit's alternative accommodation while repairs were done.

Web Summit appealed this finding to a RTB tribunal which upped the award to €20,000 after finding the company was responsible and that the damage was caused by non-normal use, in breach of tenant obligations and of the lease.

Web Summit then further appealed to the High Court which heard the case on Thursday.


Normal wear and tear

Colmcille Kitson BL, for Web Summit, said it was their case the tribunal erred in law by finding the damage was not normal wear and tear over a six-year period since the tenancy began.

No reasonable tribunal could have concluded there had been a blockage in the kitchen sink drain because of abnormal use, he said.

Such blockages could be caused by small deposits of food waste over six years and that was found by the adjudicator to be the case, he said.

On appeal, the tribunal made “no determination as to whether the sink was used in a normal or abnormal fashion”, he said. Where the tribunal “cannot make a decision either way”, the benefit must go to the tenant, he said.


In its statement of opposition, the RTB denied there was an error in its interpretation of the 2004 Residential Tenancies Act relating to “normal wear and tear” during a tenancy.

Micheál O’Connell SC, for the RTB, said the adjudicator’s finding did not have any status because once it went before the tribunal it was a fresh hearing.

While the Web Summit counsel accepted certain actions, like pouring a pot of paint down the drain, were not normal use, it was also effectively an acceptance that pouring the contents of a deep fat fryer into it was also not normal, he said.

There were reports provided by the landlord from plumbers about why there was a drain blockage but there was never any explanation from the tenant, he said.

There was no explanation, for instance, to say the tenants had used a compost bin to dispose of the coffee grounds.

The tribunal, he said, was entitled to infer in the absence of contrary evidence that it was abnormal use.

Mr Justice Cian Ferriter said he would give his decision next week.

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