Burnaby strata loses bid to make owner pay for flood damage

A $2,939 squabble over a plumbing leak at a condo atop Burnaby Mountain came down to whether a leaking valve was part of the condo or part of common property.

The strata at Harmony at the Highlands on University Crescent told condo owner Ze Bing Yang he owed the money for repairs after a flood in his unit.

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But Yang took the case to the Civil Resolution Tribunal and argued the strata should pay because its building manager had mistakenly turned off the wrong shutoff valve before Yang’s plumber went to do repairs in the suite and unleashed the flood, according to tribunal documents.

Yang had noticed a dripping valve in his condo on Jan. 29, 2019.

He tried to turn off the water but the dripping continued, so he texted the building manager, who said there were shutoff valves outside his unit that could be accessed when Yang had a licensed plumber to do the repairs.

When the plumber was on site, the manager opened an access panel in the hallway ceiling outside Yang’s condo and turned off one of the valves.

It turned out to be the wrong one.

Yang argued the manager had been negligent – the strata argued Yang’s plumber had been negligent.

Yang said the manager had promised the strata’s insurance would pay for the damage the manager said he was “100% certain” he would not have guaranteed that.

In the end, Civil Resolution Tribunal vice-chair J. Garth Cambrey said it came down to whether or not the offending valve was part of Yang’s unit, since the strata’s bylaws say the strata can only charge an owner for repair costs that arise from parts of their units they are required by the strata to repair and maintain.

Even though the leaking valve was in Yang’s unit, that doesn’t mean it was part of it, Cambrey said.

According to strata legislation, Cambrey explained, common property includes pipes and other facilities for the passage of water if they’re located within a wall, floor or ceiling that forms a boundary with another unit, or if they are wholly or partially in a unit but are capable of being used and intended to be used in connection with another unit or as common property.

“I cannot determine from the evidence provided, including the strata plan, whether the leaking valve was located within a wall that forms a common boundary between (Yang’s unit) and the neighbouring strata lot,” Cambrey said. “Further, there is no evidence to identify what areas of the building the pipe and valve serviced. Therefore, I am unable to conclude if the valve that caused the leak was (common property) or part of (Yang’s lot).”

Cambrey ordered the strata to remove the $2,938.87 charged against Yang’s account and to pay Yang $225 in tribunal fees.

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