Web Summit loses appeal over €20,000 bill for damage to rented house

Web Summit Loses Appeal Over €20,000 Bill For Damage To Rented House
Web Summit staff disposed of coffee granules, grease and other food materials in the kitchen sink of a rented house. Photo: AFP via Getty
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High Court reporter

The High Court has dismissed an appeal by Web Summit over a €20,000 bill it was given due to its staff disposing of coffee granules, grease and other food materials in the kitchen sink of a rented house in Dublin.

The global tech conference organiser had appealed a Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) tribunal decision that found the use of the sink for these purposes – which led to a blockage and extensive water damage due to a leaking pipe – was non-normal use and a breach of tenancy obligations. The RTB opposed the appeal.


The five-bedroom house in Dartry was rented at €3,900 per month since July 2015 as accommodation for new and visiting Web Summit staff.

In March 2021, Web Summit's facilities manager was notified the washing machine was not working and there appeared to be a leak in the kitchen.

A plumbing company found the leak was caused by a significant blockage in a pipe connecting to the kitchen sink from coffee granules and other food deposits.

This eventually led to landlord Aidan Hall bringing a case before the RTB including over the breach of tenancy obligations by the incorrect disposal of food waste.


An adjudicator ultimately found the disposal of coffee grounds by the occupants was not beyond normal use.

However, the failure to notify the landlord within a reasonable time of the problem was a breach which exacerbated the damage caused by the blocked drain. He ordered the Web Summit to pay the landlord nearly €20,000.

Web Summit appealed to an RTB tribunal which found a breach of tenancy obligations as a result of the disposal of "grease, coffee granules and food wastes which caused a blockage in the waste pipe”. It ordered Web Summit to pay €20,000 to the landlord for damages in excess of normal wear and tear to the property.

Web Summit appealed to the High Court where its counsel, Colmcille Kitson BL, argued the tribunal erred in its decision because there was no evidence to support that there was anything other than normal use of the kitchen sink.


Micheál O’Connell SC, with Una Cassidy BL, for the RTB, said the tribunal was not in error. Its finding was a perfectly proper inference from the primary factual findings as to the cause of the blockage which were spelled out in its decision, he argued.

In a judgment on Wednesday, Mr Justice Cian Ferritter dismissed the Web Summit appeal.

He was satisfied there was evidence from which the tribunal was entitled to infer that the disposal of coffee granules and foodstuffs was non-normal and that they had been incorrectly disposed of down the sink.

The tribunal had also inferred from the circumstances, including the extent of the accumulation of food waste in the pipe and the length of time the tenant had been in the house, as well as the lack of any explanation of the use from the tenant, that the manner of disposal was not normal wear and tear, he said.


He said Web Summit's position was "based on a flawed premise" that the disposal, accumulation and blockage of wastes in these circumstances was normal wear and tear.

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The tenants, as was their right, chose not to give evidence to explain any of this, he said.

That left the tribunal with the task of determining on the evidence before it, using their common sense and experience, whether the deterioration here resulted from normal or non-normal use/wear and tear, he said.

"Simply put: a reasonable decision-maker was entitled to decide that any normal use of the kitchen sink would not have led to the level of waste accumulation (including coffee grinds) in the pipe that occurred here.

"I cannot hold in the circumstances that the tribunal’s finding of non-normal use/wear and tear was one that no reasonable decision-maker could have arrived at," he added.

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