Neil White is the second owner of this 7-year old home, a home that he says was making his family sick.

The problem is, air seeps in between his foundation and rim joist, and when the insulation was still here, it condensed, made the walls wet and fostered toxic mold growth.

"Day in and day out, we had nasal problems, eye problems, stuffiness, chest congestion and coughing," says White. "That was horrific."

White complained to the builder, but the company denied responsibility, for two reasons.

First, because White isn't the original owner of the home, and second, because the original owner developed the basement without a permit, and his contractor may have altered the moisture barrier the builder had installed.

White obtained the original home inspection records from the city and found a foundation inspection report bearing the notation "not acceptable". That report indicates the city never inspected his foundation because it had already been backfilled.

White thought that might mean the city is on the hook for his problems.

Lea Williams-Doherty took White's inspection records to the city's chief building official, Kevin Griffiths.

Griffiths wouldn't comment on White's case in particular but said that while circumstances like his were fairly rare, the lack of a foundation inspection is acceptable under provincial inspection rules and does not subject the city to liability.

"A city inspection is an auditory inspection," explains Griffiths. "It's not an exhaustive process of warranting the product as being 100% compliant."

Griffiths says provincial inspection regulations say there are three critical stages for home inspection:

  • pre-backfill
  • pre-board (before the frame is covered)
  • pre-possession

Although it's preferable for all three stages to be done, it's acceptable to only do two.

"In most cases, I'd like to reiterate that we do all three stages of inspection," says Griffiths. "It's only been where we've had high demands on our resources that we've pulled back to the minimum."

Unfortunately for White, 'doing the minimum' meant missing his foundation inspection altogether.

"And that's ok?" questions White. "I have to live here in this house. I can't sell it, can't fix it, can't do anything with it. I don't understand that, I don't even know how to react to that."

Griffiths admits that inspectors were spread thin during Calgary's building boom in 2004 and 2005, and while it was always their goal to do all three inspections, sometimes that didn't happen.

When asked what a "not acceptable" notation means on a city inspection report, Griffiths says that may simply mean the site was not in an acceptable state for inspection.