Foster parents' home sits empty after inspection nightmare
Home for disabled kids sits empty while couple struggles to pay mortgage, repair bills
A Manitoba couple who had dreams of opening a day facility for disabled children out of their home is now living in a trailer after the house they purchased and had inspected was later declared unlivable.
Foster parents Teresa and Patrick Campbell left their jobs more than four years ago to provide care to children with medical special needs.
"I had a unique nursing opportunity to take a child that required a nurse, and to do respite. Upon doing that, our family fell in love with the child and the idea of medical respite," said Teresa.
"We realized that the need for people to care for kids that have medical needs and special needs was quite high."
To address that need, the family took in three additional children — that was in addition to their three children and one foster child. Right away it became apparent to Teresa that they would need a bigger home, she said.
They also wanted a space where they could run music therapy and gardening programs out of their home.
"It was a medical advocacy centre, where families could come for help," said Teresa.
"It was future jobs for some of the kids and adults that we have in care. It was to help. That’s what it was."
The pair thought they found that space in the Whitehead area, when they looked at a cabin-style home with a pool, valley view and a 4.5-acre plot.
"When we first drove up, my first impression was, this is it. We’re home," said Teresa.
"The house passed everything. We got our licenses from both agencies that we work with. The home inspector said mild to moderate upkeep."
The home passed four inspections in total, but after Teresa and Patrick began renovations a year later, the nightmare began.
Manitoba Hydro inspection forces family out
Inspections found faulty electrical systems, problem plumbing and ultimately deemed the building structurally unsound.
Manitoba Hydro gave the couple one week to get out.
"He said, ‘You can't live here anymore. It's not safe," said Teresa.
"It was horrible. I thought he was just kidding. I just thought it couldn’t be true."
So the couple brought in engineers and a contractor to find out what else might be wrong with the house. Contractors estimated it would cost them $250,000 to bring the house back to code — a cost the family can’t afford.
"We felt very, very helpless because we put everything into this house and everything into this dream," said Teresa.
The family of nine moved in with the couple’s in-laws for seven months until they were able to buy a trailer, where they currently live on the property.
Right now the pair is paying two mortgages, one on the empty home and one on the mortgages.
"You feel mad half the time because your house is 20 feet away. The thing that you wanted is 20 feet away," said Patrick.
Teresa said they can’t sell because of the lost equity in the home. And the pair consulted with a real estate lawyer to see what could be done.
"He looked at it and said, ‘There’s no one to go after,’" said Patrick.
Home inspections limited, engineer says
Phil Dorn is a structural engineer and the president of Samson Engineering. He said it’s not unusual for homeowners to be blindsided by problems after they’ve purchased a home.
"It’s seasonal. Right now, we’ve got quite a few that we’re investigating and making corrections," said Dorn.
"We often run into that."
Dorn said while home inspections give you some insight but what inspectors can look at is limited.
"If [work is] not done properly in terms of mechanical or electrical — it’s hidden behind walls, so it’s really hard to pick up," he explained.
Dorn said unfortunately, the onus is on the buyer.
"Legally the courts have dictated that it’s buyer beware. The owner is obligated to seek out what they’re purchasing," said Dorn.
Readers offer support
Patrick and Teresa Campbell's story has prompted a number of CBC News readers to offer their support.
A contractor has even offered to look at the home and rally suppliers, the couple told the CBC's Jill Coubrough on Tuesday evening.
"[We're] unbelievably grateful. Humbled," Patrick Campbell said. "I don't know any other words I can use."
In the meantime, the couple is hoping someone will invest in the property so their dream of developing a facility for disabled children can be realized.
"We don’t expect anyone to pay for our house — for the dream that we’re trying to make. We just want someone to invest," said Teresa.
Until then, the couple and their family will remain living in the trailer on their property.