Our strata council is trying to cut corners on costs this year as we have experienced dramatic increases in our insurance costs. As an owner and council member, I am concerned that we are not meeting the requirements of our basic operations. And possibly exposing ourselves to even higher claims that could result in damages to strata lots and common property that, in the end, will simply cost us more.
A recent decision to eliminate the landscape contractor resulted in a ground floor flood last week, as the irrigation system was not being maintained through July, which was a routine part of the scheduled maintenance and servicing.
The flood resulted from a leaky sprinkler head that was reported to council in early July and not addressed until an owner reported their patio filling with water. The damage to the strata lot was nothing more than a wet carpet, but, as a strata council member, at what point do we, the council and the corporation, start to take on liability for bad business decisions? The council has basically taken the position that they will address problems as they arise.
— Kyle J. ,White Rock
As a property owner and council member, you have the legislated obligation under the Strata Property Act to maintain and repair common property and common assets. Your owners’ also approved a budget — including landscaping services — which is also a lawful instruction to implement the contracts wherever possible. Regardless of the size or type of a strata corporation, annual operations plans are the best method to ensure the obligations of inspection, maintenance and repairs are implemented.
An operations plan will summarize the components and assets of your strata corporation — which can easily be converted from your depreciation report — and identify what level of service or inspection and maintenance is required as part of your annual operations. As well as what components or systems are managed on a long term basis.
If your strata corporation fails to maintain common property and common assets, and an owner suffers a loss, the owner is likely in a position to seek damages against the strata corporation either through the courts or the civil resolution tribunal. If you have failures relating to building systems or assets that result in insurance claims, your insurance provider is likely going to advise you of this risk, put you on notice of increased costs for claims or advise you of their inability to renew your insurance.
Common areas of neglect for strata corporations are drainage and sanitary systems, roofing systems and electrical systems. Most items that are out of sight are often not a priority, but these key components often result in avoidable claims and damages, and significant disruption to owners. Sanitary lines and drains, for example, should be flushed professionally at least every three years — if not more frequently. Likely due to the increased occupancy periods this year with the pandemic restrictions, there has also been an increase in sewer backups. Sewer backup is one of the most severe problems, and accessing buildings during the lockdown is a greater problem as the plumbing contractor will require access to strata lots as well.
Still, the most common attributable factor is simply ageing building systems that are neglected. General inspection and maintenance of operational building components are the best methods to prevent losses, claims, unnecessary damages, and, in many cases, often extend the life of building components.
Roofing systems cover 100 per cent of our investments, yet most property owners undertake inspection or maintenance on an annual basis. A qualified inspector or roofer can identify deficiencies and damages that can be easily and quickly addressed to ensure good performance of the roofing system and extend the life of the roofing system if routine service is conducted.
Routine maintenance of hot water boilers will extend the life of the boilers and ensure they perform at their best efficiency levels, reducing energy consumption and cost. If your roof fails, this is now an emergency repair. Damages have been caused; the cost for after-hours response is significant, and the repair is short term rather than a coordinated approach to maintenance and renewals. The attitude of waiting until a component fails before we have to fix it is a false economy. Create a schedule of all your building components and determine what services you require and the frequency of servicing.
For more information on operations plans and samples, go to the www.choa.bc.ca and view the webinar on operations plans.
Tony Gioventu, Executive Director CHOA
Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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