ns-property-auction

Bidders weigh in on property auctioned off in Halifax, N.S., Tuesday. (CBC)

Bidding on a peninsular Halifax house started at $9,900 Tuesday as Halifax Regional Municipality auctioned off properties at its annual tax sale.

There were 34 properties on the auction block because the owners had not paid their tax bills. The Union Street house has been empty for 10 years and suffered an oil leak in 2007.

The city said the provincial Department of Environment had advised of a "pending environmental issue" with the property.

Faye Hicks, who lives near the house, attended the auction. She said HRM should have provided more disclosure about the property. 

"It was one sentence saying it was a possible environmental issue.  It's not possible, it's definite, and I don't think there was enough said," she said.

Bidding war

Four bidders were undeterred and the price of the property quickly rose. When the gavel fell, Bonnie Burke had bought the house for $89,000. She had seen the house from the outside, but had not been inside before she bought it.

"You can't buy a house on the peninsula, in that particular neighbourhood, for probably $250,000 is the lowest.  Even if it costs $50,000 to remedy the problem, it's a good investment," she said.

Jerry Blackwood, HRM's manager of revenue operations, said the city had shared all of the information it had.

"Our tax staff did contact the Department of Environment and were advised that there was a file open on that property. We weren't provided with a lot of specifics, but we were aware that there were some oil issues, some contamination issues," he said.

Even if the site requires a cleanup, Burke would not likely have to foot the bill. The province would normally hold the owners of the house at the time of the spill responsible, but the couple has died. Their son now has power of attorney over their estate.

HRM will take the $9,900 tax bill and the rest of the purchase can be claimed by the owners' estate.