Buyer beware.

A translation by Judith Turcotte

For many, a home on the shores of the St. Lawrence represents a dream but there are many pitfalls. When buying a residence on the waterfront, one must conduct a detailed due diligence before purchasing. Many problems along the river remain concealed.

The risk of flooding is perhaps the first environmental problem to consider. The probabilities of flooding in a given area are measured with respect to their level and frequency. The expression used is “recurrence rating.” The recurrence rating of 20 years and 100 years are taken into account to determine flood zones boundaries. The recurrence ratings establish the flood lines that have respectively 1 chance in 20 and 1 chance in 100 to occur each year. These recurrence ratings are calculated from past statistics.

It is not wise to take a chance based on these probabilities. The climate change is already disrupting these odds. This is obvious when we listen to the comments of flood victims in Baie Saint Paul. The governments have anticipated these changes and have tightened construction regulations in the flood zones but what about the people who live there? They are in difficulty because the insurance companies, together with certain governmental aid programs, no longer cover the risks in certain specific zones.

Climate change also increases shoreline erosion, a phenomenon that was barely perceptible in the past but has accelerated in recent years. Erosion not only eats up the shoreline it can create unexpected pollution. For years, the river served as a dump where garbage of all kinds from chemical products to glass and plastic were discarded. With the increase in erosion, we discover these dumps that, years before, had been covered up with earth. Erosion uncovers these dump that now spread garbage all along the river. Municipalities often pour sewage directly in the river and may be neglectful in checking the existence of sewage facilities for private homes. Better check to see what is upstream of the home one wants to purchase.

Flooding and erosion are obvious concerns but what lies under the surface must be taken into account. The St. Lawrence is invaded by different species. For years, the invasion of the zebra mussels retains our attention. They have invaded lakes such as Lake Massawippi. Lake Témiscouata and Lake Memphremagog. Since 2020, the zebra mussel is present in the St. Lawrence. The consequences of the arrival of the mussel are important: the mussel is a filter-feeding organism and its presence increases the growth of aquatic vegetation. The mussel can also block water pipes.

Aquatic vegetation can also be a problem. Blue algae are present in many lakes and are now present in the St. Lawrence; it is a recurring problem and contact with these algae can lead to health problems such as stomach aches, fever, headaches and vomiting.

            In view of these numerous potential problems, I ask myself: when a waterfront residence is for sale, should these potential problems be considered as hidden defects. The law is clear: a seller must ensure that the property being sold is exempt of defects that render the property unfit for normal use or diminish its value to a point where that a buyer would not have purchased it.

A particular due diligence is therefore required.

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