Canadian Underwriter

How an insurer’s report on a condo ceiling leak won the day

February 8, 2023   by Philip Porado

Condo owner calls her insurance company as the kitchen ceiling leaks

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Repairs outlined in an insurance company’s assessment of damages at a British Columbia condo must be made by the strata, said a decision from the province’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT).

Applicants in Rolfe v. The Owners, Strata Plan EPS3064 claimed the strata would not make common property roof and exterior repairs recommended in an inspection report from their insurer, wrote CRT tribunal member Leah Volkers in a Feb. 3 decision. The CRT has jurisdiction over strata property claims in B.C.

As a result, Roger and Angela Rolfe said they weren’t able to get insurance coverage for their strata lot and were uninsurable. While the tribunal agreed the strata corporation had to make the repairs in the insurer’s inspection report, the tribunal rejected the claim that failure to do was the reason the applicants could not obtain insurance.

The strata of three-story townhouse-style homes was built around 2016. The Rolfes said that on Mar. 2, 2022, they found water pooling inside the microwave above the stove in their second-floor kitchen. They noted that, around 2021, there had been leaks from plumbing roof vents into two other units’ third-floor bathrooms and that the strata had made repairs to plumbing roof vents in 2021.

The Rolfes reported their Mar. 2, 2022 leak and the strata manager called a restoration company to investigate. A report from that company’s inspector “noted damaged shingles around the roof edges, debris on the roof including around static vents, loose siding, and [house wrap] sticking down under siding and a window,” Volkers’ decision said. “[It also said it] found a plumbing roof vent that needed to be pushed in and sealed.”

The applicants also told their insurer about the leak. The insurer sent Kelbert’s Construction to investigate. Kelbert’s Apr. 1 2022 inspection report was unable to confirm the leak’s source but “noted loose shingles and exposed nails surrounding recently replaced plumbing vent flashings on the roof,” wrote Volkers. “[It said] water ingress was likely around the plumbing vent flashings, although not likely the leak’s cause. It also noted siding and ‘J trims’ were loose and failing away in some areas, and debris needed to be removed from around the static vents.”

Kelbert’s report recommended $500 in exterior repairs: Replace loose and damaged fibreglass laminate shingles around the plumbing vent flashing; clean debris from static vent flanges; and secure loose wall siding and ‘J trims.’

Volkers’ decision said the strata’s roof and building exterior are undisputedly common property that must be repaired and maintained under existing bylaws. She said the strata referenced its 2021 repairs and stated Kelbert’s 2022 report confirmed those repairs and “did not identify the leak’s cause or any further signs of a leak” to argue further repairs weren’t required.

“However, the fact that the plumbing vent was repaired, and the leak’s source and further leaks were not identified…certainty does not end the strata’s responsibility to reasonably repair and maintain common property,” she said. “The applicants…are only asking for the strata to complete the recommended exterior repairs. I find it appropriate to order the strata to do so.”

The decision also noted the Rolfes alleged the strata’s failure to make exterior repairs, and the presence of existing damage, led to their inability to get insurance coverage. But Volkers said that allegation was not proven.

“The applicants’ insurance claim was undisputedly denied, although the evidence does not show why. The evidence shows the applicants wanted to switch insurers, but the applicants’ insurance broker advised they could not remarket the applicants to other insurance providers when there was ‘any existing damage,’ and said all recommended repairs in the [Kelbert Construction] report must be completed before the applicants could be remarketed,” Volkers wrote.

“The evidence does not show that the applicants could not maintain their current strata lot insurance with their existing insurer.”


Feature image by Stojanovic