Two Vancouver families have had an expensive nightmare due to an
leaking underground storage tank.
In 2001, Ms. Aldred purchased a West Vancouver property from the
Colbecks, who had purchased it themselves two years before. When
she mentioned a building inspection, the Colbecks gave her the
inspection report they had commissioned, and assured her that the
old underground storage tank on the property had been properly
dealt with. (The Colbecks gave these assurances on the basis of a
report from their contractor, who had been on site for less than a
day and charged only $900, yet claimed that he had pumped out the
tank, cleaned it and filled it with sand, removed filler/vent pipes
and replaced the sidewalk.)
Ms. Aldred relied on these assurances, which were untrue.
When she listed the property for sale in 2008, she discovered
that the UST was still on the property. This began a chain of
lawsuits. Ms. Aldred paid over $200,000 for remediation and is now
suing her remediation contractor. The sale of the property at
$1.57 million fell through, and she ultimately sold it for $1
million. [see related case Gulston v Aldred 2010 BCSC 241
relating to Aldred's action for breach of contract]
Ms. Aldred successfully sued the Colbecks for negligent
misrepresentation and as persons responsible for remediation of the
property under BC's Environmental Management Act.
The judge ruled that the Colbecks had negligently
misrepresented the status, safety and integrity of the oil tank,
and Ms. Aldred reasonably relied on these representations.
The property was a contaminated site under BC's
Environmental Management Act, and the Colbecks (as owners)
had a statutory responsibility for its remediation. Further,
as the Colbecks had not examined the tank, leakage must have
occurred while they owned the property, thus contributing to
Ms. Aldred was entitled to recover damages caused by the
Colbecks' negligent misrepresentation: she had sold one
property at a loss of $6123 in order to purchase the West Vancouver
property in 2001. She is entitled to damages equal to the
reasonable cost of remediation services rendered under the
supervision of an environmental biologist, to be determined
following disposition of the action between Ms. Aldred and her
Her claim for damages sustained due to the delay in selling the
property was dismissed as too remote from the negligent
misrepresentation to be compensable. Further, no award for general
damages (for discomfort, frustration etc) waswarranted.
Comment: Property owners need to know what their contractors
do — not just what they say they do. The Colbecks should
have asked their contractor more questions and not relied on his
representations about his work: the description of the work, the
short time it took to complete and the price charged should have
raised a suspicion that the work was not properly done.
Aldred v Colbeck,2010 BCSC 57
(Jan 20 2010)
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