Very soon after Stella Derosa moved into her condominium townhouse in
Kamloops, B.C., in 1997, she began to wheeze and suffer from an extreme
shortness of breath.
By early 1999, her cough and breathing difficulties were so severe that her
doctor admitted her to hospital.
She was given intravenous fluids and prescribed inhaled corticosteroids and
bronchodilators. Eventually they reduced the symptoms significantly.
Derosa and her doctor attributed the illness to the presence of mould in her
It was apparent that Derosa had asthma, respiratory sensitivity, and a
severe allergy to mould and moisture-related toxins.
Over the previous 25 years, she had missed time from work due to asthma
attacks, and had adverse reactions to paint fumes, mould and even new file
Prior to closing, Derosa had obtained a home inspection which did not
indicate any presence of mould or water leakage in the basement of the
It wasn't long before she sued the vendor's estate (the elderly former owner
had died), the real estate agents, home inspector and the condominium
corporation. (In B.C., they're called strata corporations.)
After reading the court decision in Derosa vs. Horning, I began to research
the subject of mould and found an interesting presentation on the
housemaster.com Web site.
Mould spores are always present in both indoor and outdoor air. When they
come to rest on surfaces and come in contact with moisture, they germinate
and begin to grow. They can be allergenic, infectious or even toxic.
Various moulds will cultivate on and damaged wood, paper, carpeting, drywall
and other organic matter.
When these materials are left unprotected and exposed to humidity, mould
will grow. If this happens indoors, air quality is affected and occupants
are exposed to potentially hazardous moulds, particularly if it is allowed
to flourish unchecked.
Some of the health effects of mould include asthma, allergic reactions,
dizziness, fatigue, severe headaches, and extremely serious illness if the
mould becomes toxic.
When an environmental assessment company came to inspect the Derosa
condominium before the court hearing, they found more than 50 live potted
plants covering what seemed to be every available surface.
In addition, there were numerous plastic flowers, ribbons, craft materials
and styrofoam in the basement.
Some evidence was given that Derosa was growing the plants to give to
patients in a chronic care facility, and that Derosa's health problems were
the result of mould in the potted plants.
No evidence was produced at trial to show that there was any
misrepresentation by the vendor or real estate agent as to the existence of
moisture or mould in the unit during the period of ownership of the prior
The environmental assessment firm could not conclude that these elements
existed in the unit either prior to Derosa's purchase or at the time of
their inspection two years later.
As well, the condominium corporation was held blameless in an allegation
that it had negligently permitted the basement walls to leak.
All of the defendants applied to the court for an order dismissing the
plaintiff's case on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Late last year, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that there was no connection
between the conduct of the defendants and Derosa's medical complaints.
As well, it ruled that the plaintiff had not proven that there was mould in
the unit prior to her purchase. The claim was dismissed and the plaintiff
had to pay the costs of the defendants.
Homeowners concerned about the existence of mould in their homes might heed
some specific recommendations to reduce mould, including:
Keep humidity levels below 50 per cent
Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid
Make sure the house is well ventilated, and has
exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms
Use mould inhibitors when painting
Clean bathrooms with mould-killing products
Do not carpet bathrooms
Remove any water-damaged components promptly
And of course, keep the houseplants to a minimum.
Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate
He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or fax (416) 364-3818. Or click on