November 30, 2017 by Canadian Underwriter
A strata corporation is partly on the hook for water damage to a condo unit arising from a buildup of water in a dryer vent, but there is no indication the damage is covered by the strata company’s insurance.
Adding to the complication, it is not clear whether a booster fan intended to prevent the problem is common property, British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal noted in a ruling released Tuesday.
Angela McKellar and Stephen Thorne own and live in a strata lot in an 11-storey building. They took the strata corporation to the Civil Resolution Tribunal, which adjudicates disputes between strata corporations and unit owners. McKellar and Thorne wanted to have their booster fan replaced, their dryer vent repaired, and for the tribunal to order the strata corporation to fix the water damage.
“There is no evidence to suggest the damage is covered by the strata’s insurance,” tribunal vice chair Garth Cambrey wrote in his ruling released Nov. 29, 2017.
“Neither party advanced arguments regarding whether the booster fan is a common asset,” as defined in the B.C. Strata Property Act, Cambrey added.
He found the residents 75% responsible for the damage and mould remediation to their unit, with the strata responsible for the other 25%. He also ordered the strata corporation to clean the vent once a year and take responsibility for repairing and maintaining the booster fan.
He found strata corporation was negligent in addressing the dryer vent issues but that the residents contributed to their loss because it took them too long to notify the strata corporation of water in their dryer.
McKellar and Thorne bought their lot in 2004. Their dryer vent runs through a slab forming the boundary between their lot and the lot above them. The vent exits in their balcony soffit.
Also in 2004, a contractor told the strata corporation, among other things, that the vents were “too long for the dryer to push the air to the outside” and this was causing water to build up. The contractor recommended installing booster fans. The strata council decided the onus was on the unit owners to install the fans.
A fan was not installed in McKellar’s unit until 2009. Five years later, she emailed the property manager complaining of a problem with the dryer vent and asking that the booster fan be repaired. In 2015, McKellar told the property manager there was so much condensation that water was running back through the vent and into the dryer.
McKellar and Thorne “admit that they were told” by a contractor around May of 2015 “that there was water in their dryer vent and chose not to bring this to the attention of the strata until several months later in November 2015,” Cambrey found.