Taxpayers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are on the hook for a homeowner’s flood damage because the town didn’t properly inspect the property, a provincial judge has ruled.
Homeowners Gwen House and Jeffrey Harding sued the previous owners of their Tooktashina Drive home for not building the house in accordance with town regulations requiring that the top of a house’s foundation wall must be at least four feet above a finished road.
“This construction failure created a bowl of the building lot with the house and garage built in the bottom of that bowl. Flooding was a foreseeable and likely outcome,” Judge John Joy ruled in a decision issued July 31.
Joy placed most of the blame on the previous owners, Keon and Loni Patey, for “their neglect to ensure that the foundations of the house and garage were four feet above the finished grade of the road.”
But Joy also said the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is liable “for its failure to have an adequate inspection system” to make sure home construction is done according to local, provincial and federal building codes, and assigned the Pateys and the town 80 per cent and 20 per cent responsibility, respectively, for the $20,204.42 in flooding damage done in 2010 and 2011.
Joy rejected the Pateys’ defence that they’d had no flooding problem themselves and that House and Harding created the problem.
The Pateys also said if flooding was a danger, the town shouldn’t have allowed the construction of the house before the final elevation of the road was established.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook said council just learned of the court’s decision.
“We’re familiar with the judgment and we don’t intend to appeal it, and we’ll work with the other parties that were also named in the case as liable to pay accordingly,” Snook said Thursday. “If there’s a lesson in there for municipalities, it’s that they need to make sure that their regulations are appropriately adopted in public council meetings and documented in meetings, so these decisions are clear.”
Churence Rogers, president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, declined to comment on the case, but said cities and towns in this province are well aware of what can happen if they don’t ensure all applicable regulations are followed.
“All of our municipalities have been briefed, and we’ve talked about implications such as that. If you don’t adhere to your regulations, obviously, they can be challenged and be appealed through different routes,” he said.
Neither the Pateys nor House and Harding could be reached for comment Thursday.