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British Columbia's Leaky Condos

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 10 August 1999 00:00

Thousands of British Columbia (BC) condominium owners who have been using their life savings to battle rot and mildew in their leaky condo units are finally getting some help from the government. Since the federal government would not step in, the BC government is providing no-interest reconstruction loans and provincial sales tax (PST) relief for repairs. However, these Canadian homeowners may never be compensated for personal losses due to water damage, for lost time and inconvenience or for the tremendous stress involved.

Hundreds of condominium buildings - most constructed during BC's housing boom - are leaking and rotting. Fungi and molds have grown on floors and walls and water has gotten in everywhere. Conservative estimates say it will take over $1 billion - most of it from the owners - to repair the leaky, poorly-built condominiums in southern British Columbia. Many condominium owners were faced with major structural repairs that devoured retirement savings and rendered their units unsaleable.

The Provincial Sales Tax Relief Program, which covers leaky condos, housing co-operatives and single family dwellings, applies to repairs completed after July 28, 1998 when the BC Homeowner Protection Act was passed. Eligible strata councils and co-operative boards administer the grant for the building.

The $75 million Reconstruction Loan Program provides no-interest loans to homeowners with no other means of financing repairs - usually because they have little or no equity left in their unit. More than $12 million in loans has already been paid to over 650 owners of leaky condos. To enable more homeowners to participate, eligible homeowners are now allowed to have $10,000, instead of $5,000, in liquid assets. Nor do they have to cash in Registered Retirement Savings Plans and pensions to qualify. Retirees with up to $250,000 in non-pension savings are still eligible. Individuals who own more than one defective unit may qualify for additional loans.

But aren't there Building Codes to protect us? The answer is "yes but." Canada's National Research Council publishes several national codes which suggest minimum requirements for health, fire safety and structural concerns in new Canadian buildings. These codes are either adopted unchanged as building regulations for a province or municipality or modified to suit local requirements.

Even when complied with, remember "building to code" means building to minimum standards. During the BC housing boom, reports indicate that so many condominiums and houses were under construction at once that building inspectors, who check to see the quality of work is at least to code, could not keep up.

Since June 30, 1999, British Columbia building permits are not issued without effective third-party warranties and a licensed builder. The new warranty standards offer two years protection on labour and materials, five years on building envelope defects and ten years on structural defects.

For more information, contact the BC Homeowner Protection Office at 1-800-407-7757 or 604-646-7050 or visit http://www.hpo.bc.ca

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