Pubdate: Wed, 04 Aug 2010
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Times Colonist
Author: Tony Gioventu, Times Colonist


Dear Condo Smarts:

What do you do when your strata has a dangerous person living in the

In February, there was a police raid in one of the townhomes in our
complex. Two people were arrested and a "grow op" was busted. Now the
strata is still trying to clean up the pieces from the marijuana farm
and there is damage to units on either side of the grow op.

Our insurance does not cover damages due to grow ops and the cost for
restoration to the neighbours' units is almost $100,000.

Our 38-unit strata simply does not have enough money to make the
repairs to the common areas, including the attics, roofing, and mould

What recourse do strata corporations have against such destructive and
illegal operations? To our strata, it is the worse case scenario and
we're going to be left paying the bills because someone else ran an
illegal operation.

D.W. Richmond.

Dear D.W.: You are absolutely right about one thing: a grow op or meth
lab can be almost the worst thing to happen.

In most cases there is no insurance.

In addition, if there is any type of toxic or chemical contamination,
it may require the evacuation of an entire building or complex for an
extended period of time.

Being proactive is one of the first steps. Watch for the signs of
sealed-up units, covered windows, venting smells at night, owners
paying strata fees in cash, frequent late night or stealthy
deliveries, gardening supplies in the trash, unauthorized alterations
to exhaust fans and locations, buildup of moisture in adjacent units
and condensation on windows.

In isolation, the warning signs are not uncommon, but combined, with
an owner or occupant who refuses to permit inspection of a strata lot,
they are a good sign of an illegal activity.

Strata corporations can also contact their local community police
office to report unusual activities or for additional security
assistance and information.

In many cases, neighbours are aware of a grow op, however are
concerned for their personal safety and reluctant or afraid to file

Council can act for the individual owners and contact the

When you discover a grow op, make sure the police are called first,
but once the authorities are done, your next steps are critical.

Contact the local bylaw enforcement officer of your local government
and find out what is being done about the orders to repair the strata
lot and adjacent lots that are damaged. Everything from walls and
windows, to structure, roofing, insulation, plumbing electrical and
all finishes may have to be replaced.

The Strata Property Act actually gives the strata corporation a
significant amount of power to enforce the repairs and recover funds
from the eventual proceeds of the sale of the strata lot.

Section 83-85 refer to work orders. These are orders issued to the
strata lot owner and often include and name the strata

Under section 85, if an owner does not perform the work, the strata
corporation has the ability to advise the owner they are going to
commence the work within one week, proceed with the work if the owner
does not appeal or commence, and the owner must reimburse the strata
corporation for the cost.

The real strength in this measure, is that under the act, the amount
becomes lienable, and the strata corporation may seek an order for the
sale of the strata lot to recover the amount.

Even if the property is mortgaged, the strata corporation's claim will
take priority. The strata council needs to act fairly quickly with the
local government and should seek legal advice on their next steps to
ensure the work is performed properly, in a timely fashion and that
the strata lot owners are not left holding the cost.

In the event that the property is seized under the proceeds of crime
legislation, your lawyer's assistance will be invaluable. We have
worked with many strata corporations that have been the victims of
grow ops and meth labs, and provided the strata takes action quickly
and engages an experienced lawyer in the topic, the results have been

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners'
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