Pesticide Ban – St. Lazare Quebec 2005 – New Homeowner sues previous owner for weeds in lawn and fails – Judge rules “It is evident grass in municipality is not as nice as others”

The 2005 CanLII 44006 (QC C.Q.) 760-32-008676-035

Honuorable MARIE-ANDRÉE VILLENEUVE, J.Q.C.

Like in other municipalities, St-Lazare banned the use of pesticides beginning in
the year 2000. So the owners had, since then, to take out the weeds manually. It is
evident that the grass in those municipalities is not as nice as in the others.

[1] The plaintiffs claim from the defendants the amount of 7000,00$ because they sold them a property with hidden defects. The defendants contest the claim and deny the presence of hidden defects.

FACTS:

[2] In 1999, the defendants buy a house in St-Lazare. They take care of the grass as much as they can, taking out some of the weeds manually because of the ban to use pesticides by the municipality.

[3] In January, 2003, the defendants' property (built in 1991) is on sale for the price of 319 000,00$. On February 4th, 2003, the plaintiffs visit the property. There is snow all around the house. The defendants' real estate agent tells the plaintiffs that the backyard is very nice. There is a picture on the table showing the backyard in the summertime. The grass is green and looks fine.

[4] After an offer of purchase and a counteroffer, the parties agree to sign the deed of sale at the notary for the price of 292 000,00$.

[5] In April and May the plaintiffs visit the property but they do not notice anything wrong on the ground. On May 30th, 2003, the plaintiffs take possession of the property. They see that there is a lot of weeds on the ground.

[6] On June 7th, 2003, they ask a specialist to make an estimate of the cost to repair the ground and put new soil and grass rolls (approx. 6000 s.f.). The estimate is of 6671,44$. On June 13th, 2003, they obtain another estimate of 9750,00$ plus taxes but including re-levelling and tree work.

[7] On July 17th, 2003, the plaintiffs send a written mise en demeure to the defendants asking them to pay that amount. On July 30th, the defendants answer that the condition of the grass is not a hidden defect. It is a natural phenomenon. It simply needs some regular maintenance.

THE LEGAL DISPOSITION:

[8] Section 1726 of the Civil Code of Quebec reads as follows:

"1726. The seller is bound to warrant the buyer that the property and its accessories are, at the time of the sale, free of latent defects which render it unfit for the use for which it was intended or which so diminish its usefulness that the buyer would not have bought it or paid so high a price if he had been aware of them.

The seller is not bound, however, to warrant against any latent defect known to the buyer or any apparent defect; an apparent defect is a defect that can be perceived by a prudent and diligent buyer without any need of expert assistance."

DISCUSSION:

[9] To determine if there were hidden defects when the plaintiffs bought the house, the Court has to decide if the plaintiffs were "prudent and diligent" buyers.

[10] Because the ground was covered with snow, the plaintiffs could not see the condition of the grass. They did not ask the defendants or their agent about it.  The agent told them that the backyard was nice. The picture seen by the plaintiffs when they sign the offer of purchase showed a pool, the ground covered with green grass and a large and nice patio and gazebo. It is evident that the picture was taken in the fall but it does not indicate the year.

[11] At the audience, the defendants revealed that this picture was shown to them in 1999 when they bought the house.

[12] Like in other municipalities, St-Lazare banned the use of pesticides beginning in the year 2000. So the owners had, since then, to take out the weeds manually. It is evident that the grass in those municipalities is not as nice as in the others.

[13] In 2003, the plaintiffs should have known that some municipalities stipulated the ban in question. They should have asked to the defendants if there was such a ban in St-Lazare. Also, they did not ask when the picture was taken and if they could rely on that picture for the actual condition of the grass.

[14] The plaintiffs plea that the nice condition of the grass was an important element to by the house but until now they did not make any special work to improve the condition nor did they asked a specialist to do the necessary work.

[15] The Court then concludes for all these reasons that the plaintiffs were not "diligent and prudent" buyers. Therefore, it cannot conclude that there were latent defects.

FOR ALL THESE MOTIVES, THE COURT:

DENIES the Plaintiffs' claim;

THE WHOLE with costs.

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