Canadian Underwriter

Strata owner not liable for common-area water damage

December 14, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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A strata corporation can’t recover $25,000 towards water damage repairs originating from a unit owner’s broken toilet water supply line, the British Columba civil resolution tribunal has ruled.

On June 23, 2019, water leaked out of a strata lot. The unit was rented to a tenant. The water leaked into common property hallway and other strata units, wrote Civil Resolution Tribunal member Richard McAndrew in The Owners, Strata Plan BCS 1208 v. Lee released this past Wednesday.

The tenant was not home at the time. So the strata corporation hired a locksmith and plumbing firm to enter the unit. The water was about two inches deep.

The restoration bill alone, to the strata corporation, was $40,580.53. The strata corporation’s commercial property insurance deductible was $25,000.

The strata corporation argued that the unit owner is responsible to reimburse it for its $25,000 property insurance deductible. The CRT disagreed in its ruling released Dec 8, 2021.

The unit owner argued that the strata corporation failed to prove that the water leak was caused by negligence, either on her part or on the part of the tenant.

The plumbing firm found that the water supply line to the toilet had broken off the toilet at the plastic connector.

The problem for the strata corporation was it had two different bylaws that could apply to an incident causing property damage.

Section 43(1) of the strata bylaws says an owner shall indemnify and save harmless the strata from the expenses of any maintenance, repair or replacement of common property or any strata lot rendered necessary by the owner or their tenants, to the extent that such expenses exceed insurance coverage.

But another bylaw – 42(1) – says that an owner must reimburse an insurance deductible to the strata corporation for insurance claims relating to loss or damage to one or more strata lots or to their carpeting, appliances, fixtures or other improvements which was caused by the owner/occupant’s negligence.

“Since the two bylaws set different standards of responsibility for recovery of the strata’s insurance premium, I find bylaws 42(1) and 43(1) ambiguous when read together,” wrote McAndrew.

Ultimately McAndrew found that bylaw 42(1) – which requires the strata to prove negligence – applied in this case.

Bylaw 43(1) only applies when repair costs exceed the insurance coverage whereas Bylaw 42(1) applies to all amounts of damage, McAndrew wrote.

The strata corporation did not provide evidence showing the damage exceeded its insurance coverage, wrote McAndrew.

McAndrew did find that the unit owner and tenant failed to meet the standard of care of reasonably maintaining the toilet. This was because there was evidence that water was dropping from the toilet and the tenant placed a cup underneath the supply line to collect that water.

But McAndrew was not convinced that the tenant’s failure to maintain the toilet caused the water leak.


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