Toxic mould turns family’s Muskoka dream into a nightmare

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When the Austin family sold their home in Grimsby and purchased a home in Port Sydney, they thought they were buying an idyllic home in Muskoka where they could raise their two daughters away from the hustle and bustle of city life on a 17-acre lot.

But within a week of moving in their two young girls both became ill.

“Our oldest (4) got sick one weekend with a fever of 41.7. It was strep throat in the middle of summer,” said Bridget Austin. “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.”

However, Bridget and her husband Mike didn’t make a connection to their daughters being sick and living in their new home. It wasn’t until they began renovations on the house that they discovered the mould infestation.

They were going to redo the flooring in the kitchen and on the August long weekend in 2018, her husband began lifting the existing flooring and discovered black mould. They 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,” said Austin. “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. 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.”

The basement ceiling, with exposed floor joists, had been painted white as well, which the Austins were told was an attempt to brighten up the basement.

“You can see where he painted it out. In my oldest daughter’s closet, we took back the rug and it’s (the mould) starting to come back. You can see where they painted probably five coats. When you have that kind of mould it spreads, so if you don’t get it all it’s going to eventually come back. We were only there a month, there’s no way we caused this,” said Austin. “There’s a history.”

While the house was being sold she said neighbours would warn potential buyers from purchasing the house and provide a history of the build process to deter anyone from moving forward with an offer.

“They missed us,” she said. “We can’t get any help. Our bank is not willing to do no interest or freeze the mortgage for us. We’re completely on our own. We have to cover mortgage, utilities, property taxes for a home that we can’t even live in and also rent, utilities and insurance (for a rental home) on one income,” she said, noting they are maxing out their credit cards with no way to pay them off.

“Our entire life is up in shambles. Financially we’re broken. We’re not getting any kind of assistance from anywhere,” she said. “I’ve gone to insurance but because it was preexisting they say our home inspector should have found it. But how is our home inspector supposed to find it if they’re not allowed to lift up flooring? It was all covered up.”

Austin said they don’t qualify for child subsidy, but once her oldest daughter is in school, she will begin working again and put their youngest daughter in daycare.

“It’s a cut and dry case. Everybody knows it was a cover up,” said Austin. “This house never should have been finished and built. It should have been torn down when it was rotten and moulded.”

Austin has lost 20 pounds since discovering the mould from coping with depression and anxiety. “It’s affecting me emotionally, physically, financially. Just coming here I have nightmares and I get really shaky,” she said from the driveway of her house.

The Austins are in the early stages of legal proceedings.

“It’s probably one of the most devastating things I’ve ever gone through. It’s literally destroyed our entire life,” she said. “We had a dream; we were going to have a nice big yard and put in a swing set and have our girls grow up in nature away from the city. Now everything’s been ripped away from us.”

The Austins have set up a GoFundMe account to help with their expenses.

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34 Comments

  1. Amanda Moodie on

    I’m the owner of Muskoka Outdoor Living. If there is any way we can help this family with fixing their house we would love to help. We don’t have a lot of money but we can donate our time and some left over materials. My husband is a licenced carpenter and has mold removal certification. If there is any way we can help, please let us know. 705-571-1183

    • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

      How very kind of you Muskoka Outdoor Living. We will make sure the family receives this message.

    • Bridget Austin on

      Hi Amanda … that is incredibly generous…we are pursing legally so everything is on “hold” right now …our home needs to be torn down and rebuilt … the toxic mold is everywhere and both the mold investigators and a professional engineer deemed our home a tear down as the cost to remediate far out weigh the costs to tear down & rebuild!! ☹️ I’d like to keep in touch with you for the future when we know what will happen eventually legally !! Please feel free to contact me directly … my email is
      [email protected]
      Thanks so much
      Bridget Austin

    • Bridget Austin on

      Oh my goodness !! 😯 thank you sooooo very much!! We definitely could use this in the future once our home is torn down & rebuilt!! Please contact me to discuss further !! ❤️
      [email protected]

      Thank you so much again!!
      Bridget Austin

      • Bridget Austin on

        Hi Kerry … thank you so much …may be awhile before we have a new home …but if your offer is good when we do have one ..I would love that!! ☺️ Thank you so much xo ❤️

      • Sonia Miller on

        Cleaning by Design give me a call when u r ready to start and I will join u in the new home clean….705-571-0049
        Bridget Austin if I can be of any help prior to the construction clean please don’t hesitate to call me.
        Wishing you all the best in the outcome

        • Bridget Austin on

          Thank you so much 😉🤗 I copied your # down 😉 it will be a long wait legally but I will definitely give you a shout once we know what will be happening in regards to our home etc ok ❤️

  2. Jeremy Rupke on

    I lived next to that house for 3 years. It sat there for years with an open, unfinished roof. Snow, rain, everything just filled the house. It should have been torn down. At one point there was a notice posted on the front door that the township was going to tear it down as it had been sitting unfinished for so long. A few days before the date the owner started construction again. He knew exactly what he was selling and he lied to the people who bought it. I hope he sees jail time.

    • Bridget Austin on

      Hi Jeremy thanks for the info … others neighbours have also confirmed these facts … would you be willing to send me an email with the details you know of so I can send it on to our lawyers as well??
      Thanks
      Bridget

      [email protected]

  3. Susan Fillmore on

    So sorry for your troubles. Try contacting Sean O Shea at Global news to bring attention to this horrible mess. Those responsible should be called out and perhaps made to pay compensation for their underhanded tactics. Good luck!

    • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

      John, because there is a law suit pending we have chosen not to identify the builder at this time.

  4. Sorry that you and your family are going through all this. Did you buy as a new build? If so, contact Tarion. They took us on as we purchased a new build and found out that the builder was not registered with Tarion as all builders who build and sell are required to do. We have had main bathroom all redone because of mold. Water pipes all relocated because of frozen pipes when temps reach -13. French doors that replaced because they were installed incorrectly. Tarion is not 100% as we still have a long list to be assessed but they will investigate the builder and possibly help out financially with what is ahead of you.
    All the best to you and your family, ps. Maybe you had the same builder as us.

    • Bridget Austin on

      We were told it was “newly built” started in 2016 …however it was actually started we found out in 2006….I contacted Tarion and it was registered however the builder never submitted any info/documents for a warranty etc … so we have to pursue legally I was told!! The house is so infected every inch of it …it needs to be fully torn down & rebuilt!! Both the mold investigators and a professional engineer deemed our home a tear down …as the costs to remediate far out weigh the cost to rebuild!! 😢

    • Laurie Hutcheson on

      The neighbours were very helpful in letting any prospective buyers know about the home’s history. You would think that any of the realtors showing the home would have learned that information at some point as well. It’s shame this was allowed to happen and the purchase went through after the many years it was unfinished and full of snow without anyone from the Town’s building department flagging the home and property on the land transfer system.

      • Bridget Austin on

        Laurie …our neighbours were great!! They did let anyone looking at the home know of the history…and turn them away!! Unfortunately we viewed it during winter months and they didn’t see us ☹️ It wasn’t till we moved in they saw a family with little girls living there!!
        It was once deemed by the town with a notice on door to be torn down … why it wasn’t boggles me ???
        Our realtor wasn’t aware apparently however other realtors I had spoken to since our ordeal had known and stopped showing the home !!
        I wish we could turn back time but we can’t!! 😢

  5. Lets hope the builder/contractor was from outside the area.
    The thought of it being one of our local builder/contractors
    would make all of us in the business from muskoka look bad!

    • Bridget Austin on

      He isn’t a local builder …thank goodness !! There are fabulous builders here in Muskoka …we got stuck with a fraudulent builder who bought land here and plunked a home on it… never finished it for years and then over a decade later came in and “fixed” it visibly …. it was so bad inside the kitchen ceiling was rotten with mold and dropped to the floor!! 😡
      I would love to tell everyone who was involved but we can’t speak of the case and the defendants names etc ☹️
      But rest assured it is NOT a builder/contractor in the Muskoka area! 😉👍

      • David Spearn on

        I would like to know who the Building Inspector was .
        There is no way He/She did not know the history of the build.
        It almost appears that they inspected with their eyes cloised

        • ROBERT MACDONALD on

          At one time a building permit was only good for so long, if not competed they would have to go and renew that permit and start the permit and inspections and any new requirements over again, I guess this area was a bit out of sight for the building department to keep an eye on it,

        • Bridget Austin on

          Right… I’d love to mention names involved in our purchase of the home etc however since we are pursuing legally… I can not disclose information …we could be sued for defamation ☹️

        • Ditto to the previous comment!
          Of course that’s a kind way of stating why wasn’t the job done properly?!

  6. We are experiencing a similar situation. We are seniors in Hidden Valley and have had many unexpected surprises with our home that have caused stress, both emotionally and financially.

    • Bridget Austin on

      Enid my heart breaks for you ❤️ It’s so stressful emotionally & physically & financially!! If you would like to chat to offer each other some sort of support please feel free to reach out to me!! Xo Bridget

      [email protected]

      • Thanks, Bridget, knowing good people are out there and support us makes us feel a little better,
        Hugs, Enid

  7. We can’t help with housing issues, but if you need a place with high-speed Internet and networking support to help get what you need, come by The HUB and ask for Graham. Some of our members I’m sure can help with some of your needs as well.

  8. Bridget, words cannot express the sadness of the entire Muskoka community at your experience. At least, there is a silver lining to this horrendous black cloud. Firstly, you have been introduced to the true quality of your new neighbours in Port Sydney and environs. And secondly, you were proactive with respect to your family’s health. That particular strain of mould was responsible for the death of actress, Brittany Murphy, and her husband.
    .
    I don’t own a company, but I’d be more than happy to help you with moving, landscaping, basically donkey work; strong body; weak mind. The editor has my contact details.

    • Bridget Austin on

      Rob… thank you soooo much for your kind words of encouragement … ❤️☺️ My family is the utmost #1 priority and yes we have fabulous neighbours …& community!! I can’t wait for the day that we get to go back home and truly be apart of it all again!! We miss our “home” we call it our “sick”house so our girls can try to understand why we can’t live there …but one day we will again fingers crossed🤞🙏🏻 And we can continue to live the life we wanted so much for our girls to have!!
      I will definitely contact you …when that time comes 😉
      Here’s my email just in case to contact me …in case I don’t receive your contact info !!

      [email protected]

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