Seller beware: West Kelowna house flip ends up being costly

Kelowna Law Courts.
Kelowna Law Courts.

A West Kelowna couple was ordered to pay $168,000 back to the buyer of a house they sold after failing to share the true extent of some flooding damage.

Robert and Benigna Cummings are experienced house flippers and they sold a 46-year-old fixer-upper in Glenrosa in August 2016, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gordon Weatherill wrote in a decision posted last week.

They'd purchased the property two years earlier to turn around, but while it was in their possession, it flooded in February and March 2016 and again in July 2016.

The couple did a week's worth of work to fix the damage after the February flood, including building a sump well.

The work lasted a month and in March it flooded again, making the entire basement suite unusable for nearly two months.

Eventually, the water receded and dried up. New underlay and the carpets that had been removed were re-installed on April 3, 2016, and the basement suite was once again usable.  The couple claimed that they believed the flooding issue had ended, however, Weatherill described the work as a "Band-Aid” effort.

The larger issue, however, was that the couple didn't fully disclose that they knew there had been an issue with flooding when they sold the home in August.

When asked if they were aware if there was any moisture issues with the property's walls, basement or crawlspace they answered "no."

When they sold the house, they admitted there was seepage on the basement floor, but said the problem was rectified by the installation of a sump pump and some other remediation efforts.

Cheri and Joel Brunning were the buyers of the home and within six months of taking possession, they found groundwater seeping into basement through cracks in the concrete slab.

Despite gutting the basement to the stud walls, the water kept coming in and the Brunnings sued the Cummingses for fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.

The Cummings denied this, however, Weatherill was not on their side.

“I conclude that the defendants knew the water ingress issue was far worse than they let on. They attempted to minimize the problem when they signed the PDS and when they testified," he wrote.

"The fact that they had to rent two large carpet blower fans for five days, then remove all the carpet and underlay does not reconcile with their evidence of the minimal amount of water that came into the basement."

The Brunnings had sought damages of $311,000, saying the house at 3929 Woodell Rd. that they’d bought for $371,000 was worth only $60,000. But the judge awarded $168,000 for remediation costs to install a new perimeter drainage system, expenses and inconvenience.

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