Category Archives: repairs

Leaky condo crisis rears its wet ugly head again

If you’ve been in Vancouver for a while you might remember the ‘leaky condo crisis’.

That crisis peaked about 15 years ago, and its still a common site to see condo buildings under tarps.

Unfortunately there are some reports we’re not out of the woods yet on building maintenance and construction quality.

This article in the Vancouver Sun talks goes over the crisis and how many moist condo units may still be out there.

In response to the last round of the crisis, the government introduced a new requirement for depreciation reports on strata property.

However, stratas have the option to exempt themselves from the requirement by agreement of three-quarters of their members.

Gioventu said that provision was put in to accommodate commercial-property stratas or strata-ownership arrangements on bare land where owners build their own homes and have no common services.

He said there there is no doubt some older residential strata corporations are exempting themselves because they know a depreciation report is “going to give them an ugly picture,” but the market is going to catch up with those situations when banks refusing financing on sales without the reports.

Gioventu said if there is a common theme, it is that “strata corporations have not been maintaining their buildings,” which is evident in problems that are cropping up with building decks and balconies, roofing systems and windows.

If you’re shopping for a condo how important is a depreciation report to you? Are you concerned about the history of leaky condos in Vancouver?

2 beds starting at $750k, heat extra

Looks like more problems over at the Olympic Village.

You’d think that all the hot air over this project would mean there’d be no lack of heat, but I guess you’d be wrong.

A problem with the much-lauded heating and cooling system in the buildings constructed for the 2010 Winter Games has left some residents without heat since the beginning of Vancouver’s cold snap, condo owner and resident Tomasz Rutkowski said Monday.

It’s nearly freezing at 6 C in Rutkowski’s two-bedroom apartment in the Kayak building at 77 Walter Hardwick Avenue, where his five-year-old son has been walking around and sleeping in a winter jacket.

Rutkowski reported the problem a few times to the property manager and strata council, but said he was told that the system is “just a weak system.”

“They just told us, buy portable heaters,” he said, adding that’s a poor solution for his condo with floor-to-ceiling windows. “This is supposed to be environmentally friendly, now they’re telling us to get those heaters.”

(The city and the mayor have applauded the heating system, a neighbourhood energy utility that recaptures heat from sewage and redistributes it throughout the community, as a green initiative.)

Read the full article here at Metro News.

The good news? The strata is responsible for the costs of maintaining the system, so this is one part of the Olympic Village that tax payers won’t have to cover.

No More Doorknobs

Have you struggled with doorknobs?

Then you will be delighted with this story.

City Hall is doing away with doorknobs in the building code and starting next march no new building will be permitted to install doorknobs.

But what about freedom we hear you say!

Fear not, you’ll be able to put those knobs back on if you so desire:

Will Johnston, the former Vancouver chief building inspector who wrote the changes in consultation with the building industry, doesn’t see this as the inevitable death of the doorknob because the rules aren’t retroactive. People can also still buy doorknobs and put them back on lever handle-equipped houses.

Read the full article over in the Vancouver Sun.

Strata council fraud nets house arrest

George pointed out this this story about a strata council member who bilked condo owners out of $160K.

The moral of the story?  Check your strata documents carefully and don’t accept photocopies of photocopy receipts.

In court Monday, Patrick Au was also given two years probation and ordered to pay back the entire $160,000. He pleaded guilty to theft and fraud over $5,000.

Au was a volunteer member of the strata for Gardenia Villa, a 250-unit condo building near Broadway and Nanaimo Street in East Vancouver.

Over a four-year period, starting in 2001, Au slowly took control of the strata’s finances and started siphoning off funds for his personal gain.

If the name Gardenia Villa sounds familiar, it may be because it’s been in the news before as the unfortunate leaky condo where the repair bill was higher than the construction cost.

Read the full article here.

Some Whistler condos not such a great investment.

An anecdote posted in the comment section by Ham Solo:

Interesting anecdote from this weekend.

At a party with someone who owns one unit in a multi-unit Whistler condo.

The condo is ~30 years old, wood frame construction. Not good condition. About two years ago, the strata agreed upon a plan to renovate the property. Many of the people who owned units did not have much money. Therefore, there was a lot of debate over how much budget to authorize for the renovation and the owners voted to hire a fixed-price contractor with a set budget.

However, due to rising building costs, including wood, labour etc, the first contractor withdrew. So did a second. The strata council revised upwards the budget, and a third contractor was engaged. Because of the pending renovation, many of the unit owners served eviction notices on their tenants so that the building would be empty.
Of course the evicted tenants, who were probably service industry people in Whistler, weren’t thrilled and held an “eviction party” on their way out, thoroughly trashing the place.

Now the 3rd builder is considering walking away from the project due to concerns over profitability.

At the moment, the building is unliveable. Each owner’s share of the building budget for the renovation is now higher than the market value of similar available-for-sale condos in Whistler on the secondary market. Total mess, and yet owners are only just coming to terms with the fact that their investment is more or less worth zero at this point. They have about a 1/12th share of the rights to an as of yet unbuilt building, the cost of which would exceed the price of purchasing similar existing condo inventory in Whistler.

Lessons for “investors” – condos carry many hidden costs. You can’t control who lives in your buiding. You can’t make substantial repairs without the agreement of others. If you just owned a piece of land and a building, its value can decline, but it can’t go to zero. However a condo “investment” can go to zero. Good luck condo “vultures” snapping up heavily discounted older low rise investments.