Canadian Underwriter

A groundwater flood occurs in the basement: Who pays for the carpet?

July 24, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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A plumbing firm that failed to cap an old water pipe after helping renovate a basement is on the hook to reimburse the owner for a new carpet after the property suffered flooding.

This is the result of a British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal released this past Wednesday.

Joel and Crystal Loreth had their basement suite renovated in 2019, adding a new water line to the house.

After the renovation, the owners were told by the tenant living in the basement that the property was flooded after heavy rains this past January. At one point the tenant had to live off-site at an Airbnb property. The tenant eventually moved out early.

The Loreths took Good Grade Plumbing & Gas Company Ltd. to the CRT seeking nearly $5,000 in damages.

Good Grade admitted it failed to cap an old water pipe and agreed to pay the majority of damages. But the plumbing firm argued it should not pay the owners $1,094.67 they are claiming to replace the carpet. The owners say the carpet was flooded by groundwater and potentially contained unknown contaminants. Good Grade countered that the owners should have tested the original carpet for contaminants and tried cleaning it instead.

CRT member Trisha Apland ordered Good Grade to pay the Loreths a total of $5,161.48, including the cost of replacing the carpet. The amount consists of $4,946.79 in damages, $39.69 in pre-judgment interest and $175 in CRT fees, in Loreth v. Good Grade Plumbing & Gas Company Ltd., released July 22.

A restoration contractor responding to the flood, Pro Pacific DKI, discovered that the old water line behind the kitchen cabinet wall was uncapped and groundwater was pouring out of it and into the basement suite.

Good Grade argued a carpet only has to be replaced if it was contaminated with black or grey water. It says Pro Pacific DKI never tested the water to conclude it was in fact, a Category 3 flood under the standards of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certifications (IICRC). Both parties agreed the IICRC standards should apply, but Good Grade argued the flood was only Category 2.

Key to the CRT ruling was that Good Grade does not say it has IICRC certification or remediation expertise to assess what was required, Apland wrote in her ruling. Good Grade also provided no evidence from a certified IICRC firm that the water intrusion in the Loreths’ basement was a Category 2 flood.

But Pro Pacific DKI’s certificate shows it is a certified IICRC firm, so the CRT preferred DKI’s assessment over that of the plumbing contractor.

Apland also found that IICRC Category 3 “better describes the type of water that flooded the Loreths’ carpet, which was external groundwater entering from outside after a weather-related event (heavy rains).” Examples of Category 3 floods include indoor water sources such as dishwashers.

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