A Coquitlam couple is breathing a sigh of relief after a Supreme Court judge imposed a $5.3 million levy on their strata council and a 60-day order to pay it to get long-delayed leaky foundation problems fixed.
“It’s a load off my mind,” said Barry Davis, who took on the court battle with his wife Marsha two years ago after being forced out of his condo in the 40-unit Garden Terrace at 501 Cochrane Ave.
Mould had built up because of water leaking into his unit from a podium, resulting in Davis suffering from breathing problems. But when Davis tried to get agreements to get the work done, the levies were voted down so he decided to take the matter to court.
“I thought, this is getting crazy, we’re not getting anywhere,” said Davis.
Still, the issue wasn’t resolved until a Supreme Court judge decided that matters had gone on long enough.
In his Aug. 20 ruling, Justice Frits Verhoeven said keeping costs down by delaying the work would simply amount to “kicking the can down the road, noting that “The building has reached such a state that the repairs are necessary and are required to comply with the strata corporation's obligations.”
However, the judge admitted he sympathized with owners who are facing tough times especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some people are having problems finding work. People are having problems with financing, and so on. There is no detailed financial affidavit evidence before me about that, but I can certainly appreciate that people will have problems paying or financing repairs, which on average would be over $100,000 per unit.”
However, he said the work must proceed anyway, with a well-respected administrator in place to oversee the job.
Now the owners of the 28-year-old condo located just off North Road will have to pay the special levy and Davis said he hopes the repairs get under way soon.
Davis said he will be paying his share of the levy — about $152,000. He also still pays maintenance fees in a suite he can’t live in but hopes the repairs will make the building liveable again.
Currently, he uses his condo for storage, Davis said, while he and his wife pay a mortgage on another unit elsewhere. However, the move was worth it, he said, because his breathing has improved by nine per cent.
WARNING TO OWNERS
Still, condo owners should be aware that the strata is responsible for properly maintaining common areas and the Coquitlam condo court case could be a cautionary tale for those who delay necessary repairs.
Tony Gioventu, president of the Condo Homeowners Association of B.C. said costs tend to rise when the work is put off and the strata loses control if the situation ends up in court.
“This happens all the time,” said Gioventu, who said it’s not uncommon for an owner, bank or other agency to take a strata council to court to force action on repairs.
He said he’s currently working with a condo in east Vancouver where owners face a levy double what the Garden Terrace owners have to pay for a $45 million repair that was put off for years as problems worsened.
“It’s the most prudent thing to get the work done,” Gioventu said.
The issue comes as condo owners are facing sky high premiums for insurance coverage, especially if they have had water claims.