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Homeowners in BC sue over 'worthless' homes after several sinkholes

Friday, August 23rd 2019, 3:22 pm - 'It's been the worst experience my wife and I have ever endured,' says one homeowner.

Eight frustrated homeowners from a sinkhole-ridden neighbourhood in Sechelt, B.C. are suing the district and the province, saying officials knew the ground beneath their houses was hazardous when they approved the development years ago.

The owners were forced to pack up and leave the Seawatch neighbourhood six months ago due to the risk of devastating landslides and sinkholes. They have not been allowed home since and say their dream homes are now potentially worthless.

In lawsuits filed last week, homeowners allege the geotechnical hazards underneath the 14-home subdivision were well known to the district when the development was approved in 2006. Court documents claim the district was negligent in approving their homes in the first place, and continually negligent by ignoring problems as they cropped up during development.

Rod and Donna Goy are among the homeowners who have filed a lawsuit. They moved into their home on April Fool's Day 2013 and haven't slept a night in their house in 188 days.

"In our view, this site should never have been approved for development in the first place. From what we can tell, the district fumbled the ball," Goy said in a statement released Thursday.

"The fact that the residents of Seawatch now own homes we can't use and that are essentially worthless appears to be the result of a series of errors made at multiple levels over many years."

All of the lawsuits name the province of B.C. and developer as defendants alongside the district. They say the province has extended the state of emergency keeping them from their homes on a weekly basis since February and claim the extensions are an "abuse of power."

Various real estate agents are also named in several of the lawsuits.

The subdivision, sitting above the west side of Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast, was already plagued by sinkholes by the time owners were asked to leave. Stairs were buckled by shifting foundations and front lawns dropped. Amber-coloured warning signs still stand around the neighbourhood.

Some owners of the affected houses have said they still pay mortgages. At least one couple bought their home with cash. They say they scrambled to find somewhere else to live when they first left, hastily leaving their belongings in storage lockers.

None of the defendants have filed responses to the lawsuits and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

This story was written for the CBC by Rhianna Schmunk

VIDEO: SINKHOLE SAFETY

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