Moisture, mildew and mould? Not what you want when buying a home.

Say you’ve found a home that’s in a good location and on a sizable property. It looks in reasonable shape. To be safe, you think you should get an inspection done. But your agent, who also listed the home for the sellers, talks you out of it. He tells you an inspection was done fairly recently, and the only real problem was that the furnace was too small. So you save your money and buy, without insisting on a satisfactory inspection report first.

Then, after you move in, you discover moisture, mildew and mould. You repair some problems yourself, but you also have to get different inspection services to go through the home, report on the problems and estimate the costs to fix them. Unfortunately, the more you look, the more problems you find throughout the home.

So you end up moving out altogether for health reasons – one of your daughters is beginning to have blocked nose problems – and have to sue the agent and his firm, as well as the sellers.

This was pretty much the situation the Browns faced when they bought from the Smiths, with the “help” of the agent, Robert (all names changed).

It turned that Robert had been told by another agent in his office that an earlier offer had fallen through because an inspection had found mould (mildew, actually). But the sellers had made the recommended repairs after that, so didn’t think the mildew problems were there anymore.

The B.C. Supreme Court believed Ms. Brown. She said the only thing Robert told her about the previous inspection report was that the furnace was too small – he never mentioned any mould or mildew problems. So, in his eagerness to get a sale done, he told only a half-truth, and held back more important information that might have led the Browns to make the purchase conditional on an inspection, as they were thinking of doing.

In the end, the court decided the Browns should get compensation from Robert and his firm totalling $47,000. In the judge’s assessment (based on the repair estimates), the house was worth $37,000 less than the Browns paid, had the hidden defects been known. $10,000 was in compensation for the psychological and emotional distress (including depression) Ms. Brown suffered from all the problems with the home in the years after the purchase.

Had the Browns got an inspection, it wouldn’t have found many of the problems that were later discovered by moving heavy appliances (washer and dryer) and cutting into walls and floors in the house. These were “latent defects” that couldn’t have been discovered by such an inspection. But the inspection might well have discovered signs or symptoms, such as surface mildew or moisture, which would have suggested a more thorough investigation. This Robert prevented, by talking the Browns out of getting an inspection done in the first place.

If you encounter problems with a property purchase or sale, consult your lawyer promptly.

Written by Janice and George Mucalov, LL.B.s with contribution by COBBETT & COTTON. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please contact COBBETT & COTTON for legal advice concerning your particular case. Names of the parties in reported cases have been changed or removed to protect their identity. Lawyer Janice Mucalov is an award-winning legal writer. “You and the Law” is a registered trade-mark. ©Janice and George Mucalov.

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