Pubdate: Sun, 10 May 2009
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Tony Gioventu


Get Competitive Bids, Put All Terms In Writing And Get Legal Counsel

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?

- -- TW, Vancouver Island

Dear TW: 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 a bylaw-enforcement officer visits a site to inspect 
the damages, he or she will likely issue an order for the repairs 
and, as happened in your case, evacuation of any suites that 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. He welcomes questions at  ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart