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Burnaby strata ordered to keep investigating ‘sewer gas smell’ in penthouse apartment

The Civil Resolution Tribunal has ruled it was "unreasonable" for the strata at the Met on Nelson Street to stop investigating before getting to the bottom of a persistent 'sewer gas smell' in one of its penthouse apartments.
The Met is located at 6588 Nelson St. in Burnaby's Metrotown neighbourhood.

A Burnaby strata has been ordered to do more to get to the bottom of a “sewer gas smell” in one of its penthouse apartments.

Eugene Lee, who co-owns the condo at the Met highrise at 6588 Nelson St., complained to the Civil Resolution Tribunal, saying the strata had failed to properly investigate and repair common property, which resulted in sewer gas entering his top-floor apartment, according to a ruling by tribunal vice-chair Garth Cambrey last week.

Lee first emailed the strata in July 2021, saying he had begun to smell sewer gas in his unit about a month earlier, according to the ruling.

“The gas smell was intermittent but was getting more intense and allegedly causing sore throats and chest discomfort,” states the ruling. “Mr. Lee says he had checked various areas within (his apartment), including his air conditioner, but could not pinpoint the source of the smell.”

Contractors hired by the strata took steps, including sending a camera down a vent and drainpipes, cutting into the drywall in an electrical closet next to Lee’s unit and cutting into drywall in one of his bedrooms, but the source of the gas eluded them.

The strata didn’t deny there was a sewer smell in the apartment but said it “reasonably investigated” the complaint.

It claimed it was unable to get to the bottom of the problem because the strata had voted down a request of up to $10,000 to continue investigating.

The strata denied liability and requested the tribunal dismiss Lee’s complaint.

But Lee asked for orders forcing the strata to take care of the problem and to repair his bedroom wall and air conditioner.

He also claimed $5,000 in damages for loss of use and enjoyment of his apartment, “damaged health,” mental stress and “hundreds of hours” of time dealing with the strata on the issue.

Cambrey ruled largely in Lee’s favour.

He concluded the strata’s decision to abandon further investigation was “unreasonable” and contrary to its obligations under the Strata Property Act to repair and maintain common property – which includes a duty to investigate problems.

He ordered the strata to continue to “reasonably investigate” the sewer gas smell and repair the drywall in Lee’s bedroom.

Cambrey also ordered the strata to pay Lee $1,000 in damages, $225 in tribunal fees and $317.89 in dispute related offences.

But he declined to order the strata to replace Lee’s air conditioner because he said there was no evidence it wasn’t working or that the strata had damaged it during its investigations into the sewer smell. 

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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