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Legal Matters: The seller's assurance is not equal to an inspection

Toronto-based real estate lawyer Jeffrey Cowan advises a purchaser who waived a condition of their offer based on the word of a seller — and now has a big bill to pay.

All's not well: The purchaser will need to dig a new well after the belated discovery that its supply isn't adequate for a family of six.

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All's not well: The purchaser will need to dig a new well after the belated discovery that its supply isn't adequate for a family of six.

Q: We recently purchased a house out in the country that is on a well rather than municipal water and the vendor indicated — in response to our inquiries and the condition we put in the offer regarding ‘clean and adequate water’ — that they had never had any issues with respect to having abundant water for their purposes. My agent thought this was adequate and we proceeded to close the purchase. Shortly thereafter, we were going about our daily activities and found that we were out of water and that the well was bone dry. It took two days to refill the supply and we were advised that my family of six people would need a new well dug in order to ensure we had adequate water for our family. This is estimated to cost several thousands of dollars. What can we do?

A: Your agent was correct in putting the standard condition in your offer but then it appears as though it was never satisfied. Just as the septic tank problem that I recently wrote about, having the condition in the offer that the vendor proves the tank or the well are adequate cannot be satisfied by a verbal OK. You need a report from the local water authority that the well water is not only drinkable (known as ‘potable’) but that there is an adequate supply for your residential purposes. Being satisfied by the vendor who may have had low demand on the well water is not adequate for the purposes of the future use of the home by a larger family.

Let the buyer beware (“Caveat Emptor”).

Jeffrey Cowan is a real estate lawyer and can be reached at jeff@cowanlaw.ca.

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