Nearly two years after discovering toxic mould in their newly purchased Port Sydney home, the Austin family watched that home get torn down this week, making way to rebuild.
“I started crying at first, it’s bittersweet,” said Bridgette Austin, as she stood and watched an excavator tear through her house on June 15. “A lot of things to say goodbye to but new beginnings ahead.”
“Our oldest (4) got sick one weekend with a fever of 41.7. It was strep throat in the middle of summer,” said Austin, in a previous interview. “The Stachybotrys (toxic black mould) was in her bedroom and they say that’s a really big symptom of mould infections. They were both running high fevers since we moved in and then two months of being out of the house it went away. It was their bodies reacting to the air quality, they’re so tiny.”
The Austins discovered the mould when they started doing renovations to the house and began lifting the flooring. They then hired a mould inspection company and were advised to vacate the house immediately.
“The house was poured back in 2006, the foundation was left wide open to the elements for several years, it filled up just like an ice rink inside,” Austin said. “A prefab modular home was delivered and was left wide open to the elements for years; it was so bad the foundation had dropped a foot and a half, the roof had split open and all this weather was coming in. In one picture you could see the Tyvek was tearing off and the OSB (aspenite) was turning black at that point. It (the photo) was given to me from one of our neighbours who had filed a complaint to have it repaired.”
The Austins were unaware of these issues when they purchased the house—it was sold as a new build from 2016.
“The realtor did not know anything, clearly he was lied to about it all,” said Austin. “The builder did not disclose any defects at all. It was simply all covered up in order to sell the home. If he had disclosed it nobody would have bought it, most likely. Also, I’m sure an agent wouldn’t have wanted to take on such a risk if it were known to them.”
Neighbours along the road would try and warn people who were looking at the house from putting an offer on the home, but missed the Austins.
The Austins finances are suffering. They still had to pay their mortgage, utilities and insurance for a home they couldn’t live in, all while renting another home.
When they were close to filing bankruptcy, Tarion, a home warranty company, stepped in and offered to address the issues since the home was still under warranty and the builder wasn’t addressing the problems. The warranty provided Austin and her family with the maximum payout of $300,000 to rebuild their home free of mould.
Austin is hopeful her family will regain the rest of the money they lost in the purchase from a lawsuit that is ongoing.
Donna and Keith Collins of Matrix Construction will begin rebuilding the home in a couple of weeks.
“They’ve pulled a lot of strings for us and a lot of trades are pitching in,” said Austin. “The community has been fabulous.”
Austin is hoping the rebuild goes smoothly and her family can be in their new home this December, in time for Christmas.
Financially the Austins are still feeling stressed. The effects of COVID-19 aren’t helping with that as donations to their GoFundMe page have come to a halt.
However, a number of businesses are doing what they can to help the family and work with Matrix Construction.
Tim’s Excavating signed on to do the demolition and excavation; D&D Designs are providing new home design and drawings for permits; Farnsworth Masonry are doing the footings for the new build; In-line Concrete will do the ICF Nudura basement foundation, which is mould resistant; Ambient Air is doing the HVAC drawings for permit; Pure-Logic is doing the electrical; Muskoka Fireplace King will do the HVAC work; and Clements Vinyl and Siding will work on the exterior.
“We have the next six months to pull through and then our lives will begin again,” said Austin. “We’ll be back in our home, a healthy home.”
Read more about the Austin family’s ordeal in the stories below:
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