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The Leaky Condominium

There have been a number of articles and news stories on the leaky condominium problem in British Columbia. This is probably the first on-line article to go further in depth on the subject. Condominium owners who have gone through, or are going through this problem, are invited to E-mail the webmaster with their comments. A selection of these comments will be added to this site to assist other condominium owners.

A number of questions have arisen on the leaky condominium problem: Why do we have leaky condominiums in B.C.? Are developers building leaky condominiums on purpose? Is the profit motive that great that they don't consider building a good product for the consumer? I'll try to answer these questions below.

B.C., isn't the only place in the world where buildings are not well built. Notably, the province of Ontario has gone through this problem, so has Winnipeg. In the U.S., a good example is Chicago which has had its share. So has the United Kingdom. Therefore, we cannot be considered unique in facing this problem. B.C. can be considered unique, though, in the sense that very little has been done (but a lot said) about this problem which has gone on for too many years and adversely effected the lives of too many innocent consumers. We have had governmental task forces and reports on the subject but very little has been done to implement any of those recommendations.

Second, are developers that driven by the profit motive that they are building leaky condominiums? Of course developers are in the business of developing a property for profit. They are no different than you or me who invest in our own homes, contributing to RRSPs, buying mutual funds for a gain, etc. As for developers being driven to profit at the expense of building a shody building, a generalization can't be made on all developers or even a majority of them. The vast majority of them as well as builders will stand behind their product when things go wring and they should be commended for their committment to their profession and to the consumer.

But no doubt there are enough developers and builders out there who have built sub-standard buildings at the expense of consumers. The mass media have reported endlessly of fly by night developers, lack of proper overhangs, and poor construction practices by builders. Very little has been said about others in the construction building process: What about the consultants who design buildings that look good but have so many artistic curves and are composed of so many dis-similar exterior building materials that problems are sure to show up soon or several years from now when the material has been soaked by our wet climate. And what about builders? The developer (good and bad) usually gets bids on constructing the project, hopefully checks out references, and finally picks the general contractor. But who knows if the builder has picked the low cost roofing contractor? The same for the other contractors on the job: mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc. And what about the contractor that subs some of his work out? Not to mention workmen who don't install the materials correctly (or don't get proper instruction on it). I've also heard several times where materials specificed are not adequate but are installed and put together because that was what was called for. What I'm trying to say here is that there are many individuals involved in the building process along with the developer and a lot of things can go amiss.

The above is not, of course, a defense of developers. Consumers purchasing a condominium from the developer have a contract with him and not those under him. The responsibility is with the developer to resolve problems with the building. Unfortunately, as many condominium owners have found out, the reality of getting major deficiency items resolved by the developer can be an uphill battle. What's needed to resolve this problem? Certainly greater provincial government regulation of the whole building process, a tighter building warranty system, greater communication between the developer and/or builder and condominium strata corporations on any special maintenance that needs to be done and when, and a whole lot more.

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