Burnaby homeowner loses $12,000 trying to force strata to pay for water damage

A Burnaby townhouse owner who paid more than $12,000 in an attempt to prove her strata was responsible for water damage in her unit won’t be getting that money back, according to a B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal ruling last week.

Yu Erh Chen took her strata council at Brentwood’s Affinity by Bosa condo development on Douglas Road to the tribunal, alleging the strata was responsible for repairs to her living room ceiling and floor, a bathroom, windowsills and some corroded steel framing in her townhouse, according to a Sept. 17 tribunal ruling.

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She alleged the damage had been done by water coming in from outside her unit and was therefore the strata’s responsibility to fix.

The strata hired contractors to investigate the damage in December 2017 and January 2018, according to the ruling.

One contractor did minor repairs to a crack in the exterior wall above a leak in the unit and repaired a cold joint (a plane of weakness in the concrete caused by an interruption or delay in the concreting operations) in the exterior wall.

The second contractor concluded the water damage had been caused by water penetrating the exterior walls and high humidity inside Chen’s unit, the ruling said.

But a building envelope consultant hired by the strata eventually concluded the cause of the water damage was “interior generated condensation” that needed to be controlled by installing larger exhaust and ceiling fans, using dehumidifiers and allowing for better circulation of air within the unit, such as keeping window coverings open, according to the ruling.

Based on that consultant’s report, the strata’s insurer determined the water damage in Chen’s suite was not covered under the strata’s policy, and the strata, through its property manager, sent her a $3,078.30 bill for the cost of one of the consultants who originally investigated the damage.

Chen balked and, between March 2019 and May 2020, paid $12,097.28 for three reports by an engineering firm and two by an architectural firm to further investigate the cause and source of the water damage, according to the ruling.

In one report, the engineering consultants concluded the condensation in Chen’s unit was caused by the original construction of the building. In another, they said they “suspected” moisture inside the unit “could be caused by condensation and/or water ingress.”

In his ruling, however, tribunal vice-chair J. Garth Cambrey noted there was no mention in the reports of the engineering firm having water tested the exterior concrete walls in question; whereas, the building envelope consultant had.

Cambrey ultimately dismissed Chen’s claim that the strata was responsible for the repairs in her suite and concluded she was not entitled to be reimbursed for the more than $12,000 she had paid to the engineers and architects.

Cambrey also ordered Chen to pay the $3,078.30 the strata had paid for the first consultant to investigate the water damage.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email cnaylor@burnabynow.com

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