Pubdate: Wed, 06 May 2009
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Times Colonist
Author: Tony Gioventu


Dear Condo Smarts: Our strata has run into some troubles trying to 
get the rest of the damages to our building repaired after a fire 
started in one unit with a meth lab.

The fire caused minimal damage, but the chemicals in the unit 
contaminated the strata lot and a number of adjacent units, so the 
city sent an inspector, who ordered the evacuation of eight suites 
until the restoration was complete.

That was seven months ago. We still don't have all the work done, the 
restoration cost is more than $400,000 and our insurance does not 
cover the claim.

The owner of the strata lot has not co-operated and the seven other 
owners are desperate to come back to their homes. Is there any way we 
can force this to complete?

Trudi W., Vancouver Island

Dear Trudi: Unfortunately, it's impossible to prevent illegal 
operations in strata lots. Strata corporations can be vigilant by 
conducting annual mechanical and building inspections of common areas 
and strata lots, but more important is how you deal with the cleanup 
after the damage is discovered.

The Strata Property Act gives strata corporations a great deal of 
power to deal with illegal drug activities resulting in building 
damage; however, this depends greatly on how the order from the local 
government is issued for the damages.

Most local governments have bylaws that apply to conditions resulting 
from grow ops, meth labs and other illegal drug production 
activities. When the bylaw enforcement officer visits your site to 
inspect the damages, he or she will likely issue an order for the 
repairs and in your case evacuation of any suite(s) that is/are affected.

It is important for the strata corporation to have proper 
representation at this time to ensure two steps are taken. The first 
is that all patent and potential damages are itemized on the order, 
and the second is that the strata corporation is named on the order 
in addition to the strata lot owner.

This grants the authority to the strata corporation to proceed with 
repairs to the strata lot, other affected strata lots and other 
common areas. The costs may then be liened against the offending strata lot.

This permits the strata corporation to take control over the timely 
repair and restoration to the strata lots and common areas. 
Eventually the strata corporation may seek an order for sale of the 
strata lot to cover the costs, and hopefully the restored value will 
cover your losses.

As in most cases, if your strata corporation does not have insurance 
coverage relating to illegal drug activities and losses, you will be 
left as the co-ordinator of the restoration.

Before you sign a blank cheque for restoration, set up the scope of 
work established by the local government order and obtain quotes to 
obtain a competitive price. Restoration costs can easily skyrocket 
out of control if you don't have a defined scope of construction and 
fixed price.

When a grow op or meth lab is discovered, immediately contact the 
police and fire department. Establish a working relationship with 
your local city bylaw enforcement officer and contact your insurer, 
your lawyer and any required consultants, such as engineers.

Act quickly and take control of the situation from an informed 
perspective. Don't sign blank restoration orders. Obtain competitive 
bids for the work and have all terms and conditions of the contracts 
in writing and reviewed by legal counsel before your sign.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners' 
Association. Send questions to him c/o At Home, Times Colonist, 2621 
Douglas St., Victoria, B.C. V8W 2N4 or e-mail  The 
association's website is
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart