Tuesday, January 24, 2023

High Court reporters

A property investor has told the High Court he did not promise a second dividing wall would be built between a neighbouring Ballsbridge house in an effort to “humour” his neighbour.

Mark Cassin, who is being sued along with his brother Frank, by Daniel Hoban and his father Joseph for allegedly building a defective party wall between their two houses, denied he made such a promise but later decided to build just one wall. He described the suggestion as “total rubbish”.

The dispute relates to claims that only one dividing wall was built between the two properties in Pembroke Lane when the Hobans claim it had been agreed two walls with an air gap would be built between them.

As a result, the Hobans claimed their sleep and general amenity of their new home was disturbed from invasive sounds from the adjoining property. They said speech from the neighbour was audible and intelligible and did not meet minimum sound insulation requirements.

The Cassins denied the claims and said the wall was built according to an agreed plan to construct both houses at the same time with the one builder. There was never any agreement for a second wall, they said.

Daniel Hoban, a medical sales representative, told the court last week that the ongoing upset and trauma from the noise problem resulted in them having to abandon their beautiful new home after his wife refused to go back after the birth of their first child.

He also said he had been “young and trusting” of the Cassins and their experts when they both agreed to get a single builder to construct the two houses.

However, he said at the same meeting in the Cassins’ engineers’ office in May 2008, he believed it had also been agreed there would be a double wall with an air gap, not just one 215mm wall as was built.

Mr Hoban said he also relied on his own architect to check on what was being done during the build as he knew nothing about building. The court heard the Hobans’ case against their architect, Franks Elmes of St Laurence Park, Stillorgan, has been settled.

The Cassins bought the site adjoining the Hoban site for investment purposes while Mr Hoban bought his site from his uncle. The sites were formerly a coach house and mews.

Property prices

The court also heard that similar homes in this area can fetch up to €1.5 million but the noise dispute affected value and meant it took seven years to sell the Cassin property which sold last year for €910,000.

Mark Cassin, who defended the case personally on his and his brother’s behalf, gave evidence last week it was always intended there would only be one wall between the two properties as they were semi-detached. There was not a shred of evidence to say there was an agreement for a second wall, he said.

He also said that the noise issue was not raised until four years after the houses were built and only after a family with three children moved into the Cassin property as tenants.

Just as the Cassins were about to sell the property, shortly before the bank sought repayment of the loan they got to build it, the Hobans raised the noise issue.

A receiver was appointed over the Cassin property in 2015, and it took seven years to sell it because of the dispute over noise which had also become a dispute about the boundary, Mr Cassin said.

Under cross-examination on Tuesday by Tim Dixon BL, with Eanna Mulloy SC, instructed by Joanne Hoban of Hoban Boino Solicitors, Mark Cassin said if Mr Hoban had wanted a second wall built, it would not have been a problem because it would mean a relatively small increase in the overall price.

It was put to him by counsel that when Mr Hoban refused to accept there would only be a single dividing wall because of his concerns about noise, the Cassins “decided to humour him and simply promise him a [second] four-inch wall and let him go”.

Mr Cassin replied if that request was made, it would have involved professionals revising the tender but it was not made. “It is total rubbish, and we paid for the party wall”, he said.

Asked why the Cassins paid for the wall, he said he did not remember exactly but it could have been that their wall was longer than the Hobans.

Mr Justice Alexander Owens will give judgment on Wednesday.

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