Just to give you a quick overview of The Story So Far, here is a letter I wrote to the building division that would be looking at our building permit application... I think it explains our current situation... it's hard to make this long story short, but here's my stab at persuasive writing:
Jan. 14, 2013A River Runs Through the Lane
Dear City Building Division,
I am writing to ask that you consider expediting the building permit for much-needed repair and renovations to my house at 409 F___ St. Here is my explanation:
We first viewed the house in late July, 2012. The home inspector missed some major defects, particularly the existence of the mould and rot in the basement. We asked if the perimeter drainage system had been updated, since we could see water damage on the walls on one side of the basement, and we were told that it had been upgraded. We didn’t know that the problem was ongoing, so we didn’t realize that it was a fib, and what little had been done, had been done incorrectly. The house had been dry for many weeks, and any remaining mould smell was completely masked by the smells of pet urine, cigarette smoke and what we later realized was marijuana smoke. Because it was a tenanted property, there was no property disclosure, though the seller must have known the extent of the problem, since his brother was the basement suite tenant, according to neighbours.
We took possession in early September. At that time, our plan was to replace the existing knob-and-tube electrical system, the plumbing system, and the dilapidated and inadequate kitchen cabinetry. The home inspector had recommended that we should gut the basement bathroom, so we also planned to do that.
In late September, the lane behind our house was re-paved. When the city re-paved, they removed a berm along our side of the lane, so any water in the lane drained onto our property. A neighbour called the city and they replaced the berm a few days later, but only as far North as our property line, because the neighbour to the North didn’t want it across his parking spot.
We hired a design-build firm to do the renovation design, and they presented the preliminary drawings and budget to us in early October. We decided to think on it for a few days. On October 11th, the Autumn rains started in earnest. On October 12th, my husband was removing some interior walls on the North side of the house when he noticed that the walls and carpet were quite wet. The rain continued for several days, and the water ingress in the basement continued, with the water spreading all the way across the basement. Some of the walls my husband exposed were so rotted that the studs disintegrated on contact. Another contractor pointed out that the mould problem was so extensive that we needed to have a Hazardous Materials company gut the basement suite.
I realized that the water problem was coming from the lane; I have documented this on a series of YouTube videos.
The Puddle at the End of the River
Backyard Where the Water Doesn't Go
What Happens in the Basement when It Rains
The water runs down the alley along the wheel ruts, down the entire block (it’s a long block) and pools behind our house and the adjacent houses. Repaving meant the water had nowhere to go but onto our properties, and raised the level of the lane. Without a berm across it, the water ran down our neighbour’s parking spot into the space between our houses, and into both our basements. That neighbour said he had flooding too, and that he’d never had flooding in his basement before. He called the city and they replaced that part of the berm as well. Not that the lane drainage is the only factor in our basement horror story; our contractor and the Hazardous Materials workers said the water ingress in our basement had happened repeatedly over many years. But it’s definitely a contributing factor.
The timing of our basement flooding was good, because we found out before we had committed to the design-build firm’s design and contract. But it was catastrophic because it delayed our renovation plans by months. In the meantime, we had already sold our old home and committed to a completion date at the end of November.
It took a month to get a Hazardous Materials company in to gut the basement. Then we had to find a temporary home and move into it. Then we had to re-arrange our financing and figure out - all over again - what we needed to do and what we could afford to do. By the time we had received several quotes, considered abandoning the project, and selected a contractor, it was the middle of December. Because of the Christmas holidays, and because of competing priorities the design-build firm wasn't able to complete our drawings until January 11th.
We can stay in our current temporary housing until February 15th. Then we’ll be house-sitting until March 16th. After that, we don’t know yet. We may have to stay with family or friends, but this is not really how I intended to bring up my children.
We’re not a for-profit development company, nor are we opportunistic real estate flippers, or people looking for cheap property to rent out. We are just an ordinary family planning for this to be our forever home. It would be really very awesome if you would consider expediting our building permit application, because we just want to go home.
Thanks so much for bearing with me through this long story. If you have any questions or if there is anything I can do do to help, please let me know.
(and Husband Man, and Kid No. 1 and Kid No. 2 and our cats Ollie and Skittles)