Perils and Pitfalls

A romantic colour scheme for a heritage home interior

Water had gotten inside the basement after a particularily bad rain storm (we have had our share this year.) “And, he added, The previous owners had problems before”. I asked “How do you know that?”
“Because a person made a mark with a felt pen on the walls around the perimeter of the room where water damage had occured before”.”I thought the basement was completely finished?” says I.”It was. The flooding was bad enough that we had to pull off all the drywall including the laminate floor. That’s when we saw this marking on the wall and noticed the huge cracks not only on the foundation but in the floor.”I asked him if there was a sump pump. The answer was “No”. “So the previous owners knew that there was a problem with flooding and the foundation, and even knowing that they completely finished the walls just before they sold the house to you.””Yes” he answered.Without boring you with all the details he admitted that it was their first house, the price was reasonable, they had liked the people so decided not to get a house inspection. “Everything looked good”.I mentioned he should speak to his real estate agent. In every offer to purchase there is a part in the document that requires the seller to state that there are no problems with the house that they are aware of. If something crops up after the sale and the seller did not provide full disclosure there are legal ramifications.”We didn’t use a real estate agent. A lawyer drew up the documents””Well, says I. You should talk to your lawyer. I can’t believe he didn’t catch this.””Uhh… we didn’t have a lawyer. We used theirs to save money. He told us he would not be able to represent us if anything should happen”.This whole situation is a perfect case of what not to do. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Buyers: Be suspicious of work that has been done just prior to selling a house – especially if it has to do with a basement or foundation walls. Ask about it. Sellers: If you want to ensure your work is trusted take pictures of each of the walls to show that the walls are dry before you do the work. Do the same with the floor. This home’s floor had water seeping in from underneath the house as well as the walls. Any humid smells were obliterated by the odour of the paint.
  • Always get a house inspection. Even if the inspector cannot get to the walls or see what’s under the floor make sure you or your real estate agent speak to the owners and get their assurance that the house is in the condition thay say it is. Make sure that clause is in full force.
  • Always get your own lawyer to represent your interests. Their own lawyer (if good) might have warned them of the perils and pitfalls of buying that house.

I don’t quite know what has happened since we spoke. I gave him advice as I saw it and spoke to several of my clients who had had foundation issues – they gave me some advice to pass on to him and his wife. It will be an expensive lesson.

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