A couple who claimed they had been left in uninhabitable accommodation for years, have been awarded €30,000 damages in the Circuit Civil Court against Dublin City Council.
But Judge James O’Donohue told Deborah and Damien Doyle, of Dolphin House, Rialto, Dublin, they would receive only €11,000 of it because they owed the council €19,000 in rent arrears.
He told barrister Peter Maguire, who appeared with solicitor Thomas Loomes for the couple, that they had undertaken at the start of their proceedings they would pay off rent arrears with any award the court might make.
Judge O’Donohue said the court had been greatly impressed with the evidence of forensic engineer Lloyd Semple, of David L. Semple and Associates, who had described living conditions as “pretty bad, in fact uninhabitable.”
He said the engineers report and photographs of the couple’s flat had shown conditions were unacceptable. Mr Semple had spoken of damp, mould and mildew in most rooms with the wallpaper in some falling off the walls.
Mr Semple told the court there were defects with regard to ventilation, insulation, flooding, overcrowding and moisture ingress which in one room had been measured at a level of 24 per cent with highs of 30 per cent in the bathroom and 37 per cent in the kitchen.
He said walls had not been insulated, and the property had been inadequately equipped with heat and smoke detectors.
“Through no fault of their own the conditions in which they were living were unacceptable,” Mr Semple told the court in a detailed report. In direct evidence to the court he said conditions had fallen below standards.
Counsel for the local authority said Mr and Mrs Doyle and their family had been given a new flat within two months of their launch of their legal proceedings. He said flats in the Dolphin House complex had been extensively refurbished.
“The smell in the flat was always horrendous, and we were always unwell,” Ms Doyle said. Judge O’Donohue said no medical evidence had been put before the court to substantiate any claims of ill-health and there were some allegations in the couple’s proceedings that had also not bee stood up.
“I accept that living conditions were unacceptable, and I will make an award of €30,000, €19,000 of which will have to go to the council in its counter-claim for unpaid rent,” Judge O’Donohue said.
The judge said the couple, who live with their 11-year-old son and 24-year-old daughter, had been given a new enhanced apartment with better facilities and more space. He also directed that the couple had to comply with their obligation to make full discovery of their whole family income.