News Black mould destroys family’s Muskoka dreams SHARE ON: Doug Crosse, staff Thursday May. 16th, 2019 Left - images after roof split open from foundation collapse. Right - how the home looks today from the outside. (supplied by Bridget Austin) A family new to the Muskoka area may lose their home after living in it for just six weeks. Bridget Austin, her husband Mike and their two young daughters moved into what was advertised as a new build home at the end of last June. After a month and a half, they had to move out because the structure was full of Stachybotrys, also known as black mould. Engineers and mould inspectors told them the home is a write-off. A teardown in realty terms. Building a new home would be cheaper than trying to get rid of all the mould. In the few short weeks they were in the house their younger daughter got strep throat. For the past year, they have been paying a mortgage, taxes and utilities on a home in Port Sydney they can’t live in, and also renting a townhouse in Huntsville. Bridget and Mike Austin with their two young daughters. (supplied by Bridget Austin) “When we had our home inspection it was passed,” Austin says. “The house passed, there was no indication of mould. There was nothing.” What they found out from neighbours was disturbing. Instead of being built in 2016 as claimed, construction had begun a decade earlier as a prefab home on a foundation. The project was not completed and when the foundation sank a foot and a half, the roof split, and the interior was left to the elements for years. In 2016 the builder, whom the Austin’s are suing, fixed the siding, repaired drywall and painted the basement white, all in an effort to cover up the mould. “Within a month we had gone in and went to take up the flooring in the kitchen which was vinyl,” she explains. “That’s when my husband discovered the entire floor was black.” They immediately brought in mould inspectors and in short order were told they would have to move out as it was too dangerous for them and their two young daughters, aged one and four. “They came back in and did a thorough investigation in which they took off trim, lifted flooring, they cut out pieces of the drywall,” Austin reveals. “Numerous things they have done and found the mould all throughout the house.” Black mould behind trim and under flooring. (supplied by Bridget Austin) It has ruined them financially. The Austins moved to Muskoka from Grimsby, hoping to provide a better life for their kids on a beautiful 17-acre lot. They are hoping a GoFundMe account will help them make their mortgage payments while they go through the legal process of suing the builder, which could take between two and five years. “My husband (a stone mason) is just a single income,” she explains. “I am a stay at home mom. We have two little ones. I have gone to Ontario Works. They can’t help us. Once I get a job we won’t qualify for a child care subsidy.” Ironically a realtor with an investment property in Huntsville has rented his townhouse to the Austins and was in their house while it was being refurbished. He noticed the black mould then and stopped showing it to clients. Their own realtor did not have the benefit of that information. Austin says they would have been further ahead if their house had burned down. Insurance offers no coverage for mould. “No insurance will cover toxic mould,” she says. “So we are on our own. We have to pursue legally which we are doing.” They have a house full of new appliances that are now covered in mould. The cost of removing them along with furniture and clothing and getting it all cleaned would come in at around $65,000. And there is still no guarantee they would be free of toxins. “We were able to get some clothing, anything that can be properly washed,” she says. With no social network or much family in the area they have felt isolated and at their wits end about what to do. “Our entire family’s life is pretty much destroyed,” she says quietly. “Our credit, everything has been affected because we have been living on our credit cards paying rent and mortgage.” For now, it is a waiting game as they navigate the Ontario legal system to try and recover what they have lost through this homeowner’s nightmare.