Posted by Jeff Wahl on 8/15/2020 to Real Estate Considerations
Over the past 20 years working as a certified water professional I have observed multiple rural real estate transactions with no clarity in the bacterial water sampling requirements for financing obligations. These interactions go on daily and are currently unregulated in all Canadian provinces and territories. A water sample for bacteria that is conducted during a real estate transaction can be taken by the seller, buyer or a third party with no certification or procedural requirements necessary. It is just a requirement to be taken before the closing of a sale.
The requirement for a “potable water sample” is generally made by the lending institution as part of the conditions for the sale of a rural property. Private sales are not subject to this same condition and would only be conducted at the request of the buyer to ensure that the water is safe for use and consumption. Rarely do sellers provide water sampling results as part of the listing for the property and it is not generally part of realtor recommendations when preparing for the listing. It is not uncommon to have this issue “show up” when the financing stage is reached, after the offer to purchase is placed and accepted.
For most people, purchasing a home in the country is one of the most important transactions they make and often one of the largest monetary purchases made in a lifetime. The nature of the transaction has importance to the realtor and seller as an incentive to complete the sale. Water samples are often conducted ethically and in good faith with adverse water sampling results being dealt with properly prior to the completion of the sale. However, this is not always the case.
After personally being involved in multitudes of real estate water transactions, the grey area for sampling in Canada is open to alterations and falsifications with no requirements for procedures, protocols or certification for the individual conducting the sample. It is possible for a seller or realtor to take a sample from another source and submit it as part of the sale. Many people do not retest the water after the purchase is complete, as they are busy with the euphoria that comes along with the new acquisition of the property.
My purpose is not to accuse or condemn any actions on behalf of the realtor or seller but to raise attention to the need for independent, certified third party sampling which does not involve anyone biased in regards to the transaction. To ensure accuracy and honest testing results there are various critical factors including proper sampling procedures, location verification, prompt laboratory submission times, accurate reporting and safe temperature requirements.
I have seen buyers who are left to deal with excessive E.coli and coliform bacteria counts in water samples conducted just weeks after the purchase with little recourse. There are often water quality complaints after a sale and additional testing determined the water did not pass the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines but had passed the required bacterial sampling as part of the sale.
Taking a water sample for a real estate transaction should be regulated just as any other trade or service that is required in the sale of a home. When completed properly, third party water sampling provides the seller, buyer and realtor with a clear picture of the bacterial status for the water present in a rural sale, and removes the ability to falsify a sample in the self serving interest of completing a sale.
Rural well water testing for other contaminants are also recommended by Health Canada but not required in a real estate water sample. Some of the most prominent identified are lead and arsenic, yet often none of these contaminants are discussed prior to the sale of a property by the realtor, buyer or seller.
In the interest of water safety for the purchaser, a properly conducted bacteriological water sample is a good practice and is in the best interests for all parties involved in the real estate transaction. Adherence to the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines should be required as part of water sampling for any rural real estate purchase.
Volume 4 – Issue 4 Wahl H2O - Water Awareness
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