Nova Scotia

N.S. family mulls $45K offer from province for condemned home

A Nova Scotia family is unsure whether they'll accept a $45,000 offer from the province for their summer home, which has been unlivable and uninsurable since June when the steep bank in their backyard started to cave.

Steep embankment in backyard started to cave earlier this summer, causing damage to summer home

This photo shows the view in late June 2019 of the embankment looking toward the Smith family's summer home. (Cheryl Mason)

A Nova Scotia family is unsure whether they'll accept a $45,000 offer from the province for their summer home, which has been unlivable and uninsurable since June when the steep bank in their backyard started to cave.

Robert Smith and his adult children bought the Victoria Beach home five years ago for $22,000.

Smith's home insurers cancelled his policy in August when he put in a claim for damage the home endured after the bank started falling toward his home, sending trees on top of his roof.

The landslide was significant enough that the Municipality of the County of Annapolis told another homeowner — directly above Smith's home — that he had one week to demolish the home and remove it before it was sent rolling down the bank.

That house is now gone, but Smith said no insurer will offer him a policy over fear the bank may crumble again.

The yellow cottage above was demolished because the land underneath it was giving way and threatening the blue cottage below. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

An order from the municipality to vacate the Smiths waterfront home remains in place.

"I got mad and called [Premier] Stephen McNeil," Smith said.

After putting in a request on Friday, Sept. 13, to see the local MLA at his constituency office, Smith said he was invited in for the following Monday. Smith said he was impressed with how quickly he was able to meet with McNeil.

Smith, who is looking for $60,000 from the province for the home, said a Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal staffer said $45,000 was the best the province could do.

Recouping costs

"And I said, 'I don't want to get rich. I just don't think that's fair to give my kids, who had a house, and they're only going to end up with $15,000," Smith said.

The Smith family put a new roof, chimney, windows and a coat of paint on the home. Before the renos, the home was appraised at $41,900, but Smith's daughter, Amy Brown, said they agreed they'd never sell it for anything less than $100,000.

"Deep down, none of us really wanna get rid of it, but at the same point, if we have to do a lot of cleanup and bank repair, that's just too much money for us to afford to do it," she said.

Another legal option

Smith said the only other option is to sue Charles Haynes, who owned the home above his that was ordered demolished by the municipality.

Smith said he can't afford the legal bills to force Haynes to pay for cleaning up the fallen trees around his property and for the restoring the steep bank in his backyard.

"I don't want to sue Charles," Smith said. "He lost enough."

In a statement, a Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal spokesperson said the province wants to buy the Smith's summer home to properly secure the bank and prevent another landslide.

"Our engineers have determined that by purchasing the property at the bottom of the hill, we could slope the embankment so that the runoff wasn't as strong," said Marla MacInnis.

"Given that this house [is] condemned, we approached the property owner to see if there was an interest in selling it to us."

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