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How basement flooding devalued this property


September 17, 2018   by Greg Meckbach


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Recurring basement flooding means a homeowner’s property is worth about $35,000 less than it would otherwise be valued at for tax purposes, says an official from the board that hears Ontario property tax appeals.

Sharon Latta owns a home near Grand Bend, about 70 kilometres northwest of London. The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation said her home should be considered worth $366,000 for the purpose of determining Latta’s property taxes. Latta argued her property was only worth $337,500 as of Jan. 1, 2016.

Latta appealed her property tax assessment. Assessment Review Board member Joanne Laws accepted evidence from real estate broker Robert Sharen, who was brought in as an expert witness. Laws found Latta’s home should be valued at $350,000, which is $35,000 less than what a similar home in the neighbourhood sold for recently.

Latta’s home is at the lowest point in the neighbourhood, Laws wrote in Latta v Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, released Sept. 6. Her property has flooded at least twice and Latta installed two sump pumps.

Sharen’s opinion was that the cost to fix Latta’s basement flooding problem would be $35,000 – including replacing the existing sump pumps, installing French drains on both sides of the property and installing a backup power generator for the sump pumps. (A French drain is a sloped trench filled with gravel and perforated pipe.)

Sump pumps need to be inspected every four months, Larry Freiburger, director of operations for AET Group Inc., said during the recent launch of the Toronto Home Resilience Program. A homeowner may have a sump pump and not realize that the motor has seized up or that the circuit breaker has tripped, Freiburger said at the time. Homeowners should also figure out whether their home actually has a backwater valve, Cheryl Evans, director of the home flood protection program at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, told Canadian Underwriter recently.

The average cost of a flooded basement in Canada is $43,000, the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation notes.

In some areas, people cannot get insurance coverage for flooding in their basement “no matter whether the source of flooding is sewer backup – the sewer system becoming overwhelmed in big storms and water backing up through the sewer system and flooding the basement that way – or overland flooding, water coming in the side window of your house,” Intact Centre head Blair Feltmate said earlier this year during a presentation at the Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference.