Buying Old House in Toronto: Dangers

One of the most frequently asked questions of our clients is: “What is the worst danger when purchasing an old house?” The answer is simple: “Water”.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is an old house? Let’s walk around the areas of our city – Toronto: Down Town Area – 110-80 years old, St. Clair up to Lawrence – 80-50 years old, from Eglinton up to Steeles – 50-30 years old.

One of the most widespread problems is basements flooded with sewer water or mix of storm and sewer waters. Many of us remember the damage caused by the storm on August, 19th, 2005 in North York. Why do floods like that occur, and more importantly, who is going to pay for it?

Why? Three principal causes:

– Tree roots in sewer pipes under the ground.

– Clogged running trap (the central gangway) on a sewer pipe in the house or, worse than that, in the street under the ground.

– Broken sewer pipes under the ground.

As a rule, when purchasing an old house, the seller will show you a certificate stating that the house has passed overall inspection. Most of the time, it is the truth. You, being a more suspicious person, can call your inspector, who will provide you with the same information.

So where is the problem? Inspectors tend to draw their conclusions only about visible parts of the house, systems and the equipment. That doesn’t tell the whole picture. Many important parts of a home are hidden under plaster partitions, inside the walls or under the ground, which the inspector could not possibly see and therefore log.

The person who sold, having lived in the house for 2-3 years for certain knew about all the home’s problems. He probably knew about the backed-up sewer and the flooded basement. He bought the house to resell it after easy repair, and you have bought it to live and prosper in.

Let’s imagine what might happen. After purchase the repairs are over and you plan to rent out the basement, or just make your childhood dreams come true – get yourself a pool table for the basement. House warming, visitors, good mood – everything is fine, until a week later when it rains. You come home to your lovely, new house, you swim in, and discover a sewer water pool with your favorite pool table in the middle of your basement. And the “pool” word game really does not amuse you. Your nightmare has begun – frustration, yelling at the inspector, at City, the insurance company and the moon do not deliver much relief. As mentioned earlier, in Canada in the end the responsibility lies on your shoulders.

Emergency services from the city must be fully convinced, that the problem is on their property in order to start the repairs – and that takes time. Much longer than you would have expected. Sometimes even days. Meanwhile the stinkhole your house has turned into is smelling and looking worse. In addition, your tenant’s lawyer is threatening you to pay for their now drowned forever computers and other appliances. Something needs to be done immediately. The City technician tells you something about “clean-outs” which are supposed to be installed and not there to clean the water drain and he will return to investigate only after you install them. Time goes on – the stench is now unbearable.

Subsequently you decide to take matters into your own hands. And here arrive the protagonists of our opus: sanitary technicians, in clean white vans with top-notch equipment and the desire to help – for a “modest” pay of course.

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