Canadian Underwriter

Why your clients should do an inspection before buying a home

July 21, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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A couple who discovered a leaking bathtub after moving into their new home cannot get compensation from the sellers.

A “reasonable inspection” would have revealed a water problem before Tyler and Keva Luscombe bought their home in 2020, the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled in Luscombe v. Harris, a decision in a $3,800 small claim released July 15, 2021.

The Luscombes bought the home from Cheryl Harris and her daughter. Both Harris and her daughter had owned the home. Immediately before they sold it to the Luscombes, Harris’s daughter lived in the home while Harris did not.

Harris and her daughter gave the Luscombes a property disclosure statement. Harris’s daughter answered the questions on the property disclosure statement, but both Harris and her daughter signed the property disclosure statement.

The Luscombes moved into new home Dec. 15, 2020.

“Shortly afterwards, while the bathtub was being used, they heard dripping and saw water coming from the ceiling under the bathtub,” CRT member Lynn Scrivener wrote in Luscombe v. Harris.

Initially, the Luscombes replaced the bathtub drain but that did not stop the leak. Later the Luscombes noticed holes on the inside edge of the bathtub. It turned out that the bathtub leaks if it is filled above the holes.

The Luscombes argued that Harris should have to reimburse the Luscombes $682.50 for repairs they made to the ceiling below the tub as well as $3,136 for replacing the bathtub.

The Luscombes initially named both Harris and her daughter as respondents in their CRT dispute. The Luscombes were unable to serve Harris’s daughter with a CRT dispute notice, and Harris consented to being the sole respondent. The CRT adjudicates several different categories of disputes in B.C. including claims of less than $5,000.

In the Luscombes’s claim, they allege that Harris did not disclose the previous water damage in the property disclosure statement. For her part, Harris agreed there was a damp area on the dining room ceiling below the bathroom in 2019. A hole had been cut into the ceiling but a building professional was unable to determine why the ceiling had been damp. Several months later, a relative of Harris patched the hole and the patch was visible when the home was sold.

The Luscombes lost their case because they could not convince the CRT that Harris had actively concealed any problems with the bathtub or ceiling. Also, Scrivener was not convinced that Harris failed to give the Luscombes Harris’s actual current knowledge of the property on the property disclosure statement. This is why the CRT ruled that Harris did not breach the contact to sell the home.

Scrivener explained that sellers are liable if they fail to disclose “latent defects” if:

  • those defects render the house dangerous or uninhabitable; and
  • the sellers knew about the defects or were reckless as to whether or not those defects existed.

The Luscombes were aware of the ceiling damage and did not ask that it be repaired, noted Scrivener. As for the holes in the bathtub, those could have been discovered through a “reasonable inspection,” wrote Scrivener.

“While admittedly inconvenient, I find that holes in a bathtub would not make the home dangerous or unfit for habitation. I find that, based on the evidence before me, the bathtub holes are not latent defects.”

There are two types of defects: patent and latent, Scrivener explained.

“Patent defects are those that can be discovered by conducting a reasonable inspection or inquiry about the property. A seller does not have to disclose patent defects to a buyer, but they must not actively conceal them.”

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3 Comments » for Why your clients should do an inspection before buying a home
  1. Joshua Laycock says:

    It’s a nice idea but as someone who just went through the home buying process, you WILL NOT have your offer even considered if you make it subject to an inspection or even financing. The current market sadly requires a measure of recklessness in order to get a home. You can control if you overspend and get in too deep up front, but knowing about the true condition of the home is virtually impossible. We bid on 4 homes before getting ours (and I know some who have tried to buy over 20 homes) and none that I have spoken to were able to include this as a condition of sale. Its a real problem. I believe home inspections should be mandatory for all sales so that buyers can make an informed decision, and those with good inventory will be able to back it up. It seems an easy solution.

    • Eric says:

      While what you are saying is very likely 100% true, the final response to it is, nobody is forcing you to buy a home now nor in that particular area while this phenomenon is occurring. A person has a right to sell any object without showing it. More importantly, a buyer has a right to never buy anything without having it inspected. Because you want to buy at a particular moment, you want the world to impose conditions beneficial to you so you can get what you want done. It truly is nonsense.

  2. As a Home Inspector in BC most of my clients, in this crazy market, have hired me to do pre-offer inspections. This allows them to make subject free offers on properties they are interested in.

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