Betty Sung has been living with exposed drywall in the ceiling since March.
A condo owner in Broadmoor was recently billed for $3,000 after a pin leak from communal pipes left her living with an open ceiling for three months.
Leaks in condos, apartments, houses and commercial premises are by no means uncommon. But the issue of paying for repairs and restoration remains confusing to many, and Betty Sung is one of them.
It all started in March, when Sung’s husband discovered a puddle in the bathroom of their apartment before taking his morning shower. They contacted their strata and an emergency team was called to the scene.
To identify the leak, teams sent from Strata opened the bathroom ceiling and exposed the drywall, eventually finding a pinhole leak in one of the pipes.
The strata have since replaced the plumbing, but Sung still lives with a hole in her ceiling, she told the News.
“We don’t know if it’s safe to live with exposed drywall,” she said.
Sung told the News she was surprised when Strata charged her about $3,000 for catering crew fees, which included hours worked and machines used. The diapers paid for the cost of replacing the piping, and it was not included in Sung’s bill.
According to Sung, the condominium board had refused to pay the restoration bill because it was below their deductibles. Strata told Sung that under Strata Property Act regulations, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to repair items in their Strata lot and that she should contact her insurance broker. There was also no question of repairing the ceiling, which was opened by the crew hired by the strata.
“I’m open to splitting the costs with the strata, but they didn’t notify me of the costs in advance,” Sung said.
The News has learned that the stratum maintains that it fully complies with the laws of the province and that the leak was accidental and not caused by its negligence.
To make this seemingly complicated case even more confusing, Sung told The News that her insurance broker refused to send an adjuster when she tried to file a claim months ago. It was only recently assigned a new broker, who is now reviewing the situation.
“We lack experience and we don’t know what to do,” she said.
In the meantime, Sung tries to negotiate with the strata, but to no avail. And the language barrier doesn’t help since English is Sung’s second language.
“We’re totally stuck,” she said.
Strata partially responsible for restoration, says CHOA executive director
According to Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of BC (CHOA), there is a simple answer to all of this.
“The basic principle is that the domestic hot and cold water system of a condo building is common property. So the pipes in the walls between the units are all common property. Repairing these is the responsibility of the condominium corporation,” Gioventu said.
But what happens when the interior of a condominium unit is involved?
Simply put, it depends on whether the damage was caused by a common good, like a leaky pipe.
In a 2021 Civil Resolution Court decision, Chen v. The Owners, Strata Plan NW 308, the court found that the owner of the strata lot should not have to pay for restoration work to repair common property.
The Court decided that since the leak in the owner’s bathroom and kitchen originated from the common property and not from the condominium unit, the owner should not be responsible for the restoration costs.
Additionally, the court in the 2018 decision Thompson v. The Owners, Strata Plan LMS 2349 also ruled that the condo is responsible for repairing a ceiling inside a condo unit it removed because the condos intentionally caused the damage to repair a pipe of common property.
“The condominium company has to do these repairs, they have to pay for the repairs. And if they don’t, then she should file a lawsuit with the civil resolution court,” Gioventu said.
Sung will have to cover the costs of the rest of the repairs, such as repainting the walls and repairing the floor, unless the amount exceeds the stratum’s insurance deductible. But she would have to claim it under her own insurance, Gioventu explained.