House of horrors

Bad design caused sewage to flood Wilson Heights home 18 times in eight years

Shondra Nauth has seen her dream home turn into a nightmare.

In eight years full of anger, frustration and depression, her basement has been flooded with raw sewage 18 times.

Mould overtook every wall and piece of furniture she owns. Her health has been affected by it. Her front yard became a sinkhole. The foundation of her home is floating underground on excess water, damaging its structure and interior. Her insurance costs have multiplied sevenfold. And to top it all off, despite hundreds of phone calls and emails, the city ignored her.

“When they ignored me I had Councillor (Mike) Feldman call them and they wouldn’t do anything for him either,” she said. “I can not tell you how this is depressing me and how frustrated I am.”

Nauth arrived in Canada in 1974 from Guyana with just $15 to her name. She worked as a secretary and managed rental properties for many years. In 2002, she sold the properties and purchased 279 Wilson Heights Blvd. — a property valued at over one million dollars. It was supposed to be her dream home, but now she can’t stand to live in it.

“I am so angry and frustrated and hate my house right now. Every time I set foot in here I can smell mould. I know it’s not good for me, or for anyone to live in here,” she said. “I don’t think I could restore the house to what it’s supposed to be.”

A mould inspector ran tests on Aug. 10 after which he told her not to enter the basement at all. He also suggested blocking the air return so as not to infect the rest of the house any further than it already is. A final report is expected this week.

Feldman has been trying to help her for years, and is sick of seeing inaction.

“I have meetings with staff who say they’re going to re-do the sewer system and they’re going to have an environmental study and they’ll start that tomorrow morning,” he said. “Well, six years later they said they have to have an environmental study. This is when I lose my cool.”

He said the problem originated as the house was being built.

“It was a new house. When they laid the sewer lines, evidently they didn’t account for the gravity that was needed (for the sewage to run from her home to the city’s collection line). The gravity (had the sewage running) to her home,” he said. “The inspector was out there and said, ‘This is all okay.’ Yeah, well, if you sign off on it, it’s supposed to work.”

In July, it seemed the problem was on its way to being fixed. A scathing ombudsman’s report on the house was published, putting the onus entirely on the city. Nauth said city employees came to her house in early August with a plan in mind — to install a sewage pump in her basement — and at her expense. Feldman said this did not resolve the issue.

“(The city) said, ‘We’re going to put (the pump) in there and it will solve your problem. And you’ll have to maintain it,’” said Feldman. “She said (to the city), ‘I’ll have to maintain it, after the damage you’ve done to my house?’”

Nauth is now suing the city for the $400,000 she’s put into maintenance and legal fees, plus she’s asking more for punitive damages.

While Nauth says she fears she can’t win because she is just one person fighting a large city, Feldman feels differently.

“She’s got a lawsuit for half a million dollars and I think she’ll win it hands-down,” he said.

With files from Christopher Reynolds

About this article:

Posted: Aug 16 2010 5:11 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto

One thought on “House of horrors

  • August 25, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    City staff should be more prompt when answering complaints and follow up with a solution.
    Many people experience this type of damages from the city, and was told to call their own insurance, which result in the home owner paying for high risk insurance.
    City should pay compansation for all damages they have caused to home owners.

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