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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