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Condo Caution

Condo Caution

Kelowna-Condo-Caution-strata-reserveCrucial advice for strata owners and prospective condo buyers

It’s pretty shocking to buy a unit in a strata complex only to find that the building or property needs major repairs — work you didn’t know about before you made your purchase. It could be extremely expensive and you don’t even know how much of the total bill you will have to pay.

Most people are familiar with the “leaky condo” crisis on the Coast, but you may not realize that problems are also appearing here in the Okanagan. While not always the case, many of the issues stem from a period in the late 1980s when the building code was made more lenient in Canada to encourage construction. Building practices in British Columbia were similar to those in the rest of the country, but impractical for the moist climate of the West Coast. Because of certain deficiencies in this method of construction — generally inadequate ways to move moisture away from the building — major problems have arisen including moisture being trapped within exterior walls, leaks around windows and doors, deteriorating structural integrity and mould.

Although the building code was changed in the late 1990s to include mandatory measures to prevent such issues, many buildings constructed in the 80s and 90s have required drastic remedial measures to fix the problems and further protect their structures. Buildings constructed before and after that time period have also turned up costly repair issues. Major structural situations are now occurring in strata complexes in the Okanagan.

I got lucky. I purchased my Kelowna strata townhome in a private sale at a good price in 2004. Built in the late 1970s, it is well-constructed and run by a private strata council that does an excellent job, including maintaining extremely low strata fees (if I told you, you’d be shocked). In the nine years that I have lived here, there have been no    building or property issues except a few roof repairs, which fell under my strata fee. The only “major” issues I’ve had to pay for were within my own unit and therefore, my own responsibility—replacing my old hot water tank, dealing with some plumbing to prevent water from flooding the downstairs unit and having my fireplace cleaned.

Wendy L. got lucky, too—in a sense. She bought an apartment in a downtown Kelowna highrise in May of 2013. A few years ago, major mould issues were discovered in the building (constructed in 1979), requiring remediation that cost far more than the contingency reserve fund could provide. This meant the strata owners would have to pay the difference—up to $40,000 each. They went to court in an attempt to avoid the hefty levy, but the court ruled against them. Some owners still refused to pay while others have been paying over time.

Fortunately for Wendy, her realtor carefully read the strata paperwork before she purchased the apartment and discovered that the seller still owed over $20,000 towards the remediation bill with the balance due within next few months. Armed with this information, the purchase agreement was structured in such a way that the sellers had to put money into a trust fund to pay off the debt before the sale could go through. Without this agreement, Wendy would have been stuck with the bill.

“It’s really important to check with the strata ownership,” she says, “to find out what repairs are coming up and how much money is in the contingency fund to cover them.” >> Page 2

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About The Author

Dona Sturmanis

Dona Sturmanis -a Kelowna-based freelance writer, editor and writing instructor. "Dona was a contributing writer and editor to Okanagan Life Magazine for a great many years. She always wrote poetically and deliberately... and they blended into exceptional stories of emotional triumphs and heart rendering loss. She was a writers' writer. A teacher, poet and all round good soul. The power of the printed word was her vocation and her dedication to her craft was inspiring. If you knew her you were blessed by knowing one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, loyal and supportive people. Keep teaching Dona... you will be missed." - publisher J. Paul Byrne

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