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Condo water leak case shows evidence important

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on May 17th, 2023

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) has ordered a strata corporation to immediately reverse a charge of nearly $10,000 to a strata lot owner after finding they were not responsible for a water leak and resulting expenses.

In Liang v. The Owners, Strata Plan NW 1374, CRT member Leah Volkers wrote that even if she found lot owner Chuan Wei Liang responsible for the leak, the available evidence does not show the strata corporation spent $9,843.15 repairing it.

A strata corporation in B.C. is synonymous with a condominium corporation in Ontario, and the strata lot owner would be the person who owns the condo unit.

The leak was discovered on June 24, 2019, in Unit 116, two floors beneath Liang’s unit, SL60. The strata dispatched a contractor, Latham’s, to investigate. The dispute revolved around where the leak originated and whether Liang was responsible for it and the resulting expenses.

The decision highlights the importance of providing complete evidence, and not just relying mainly on repair receipts.

The corporation relied on two invoices to show Liang was responsible. The first was a $706.65 invoice from Latham’s that read in part, “found large puddle of water by shower” in Liang’s unit … No active plumbing leaks detected.” While on site, the contractor also found a laundry machine installed, “but connections not to code.”

The corporation alleged Liang connected a washing machine to the faucet supply lines under the bathroom sink, and this was the “main source of water leakage to the below floors.”

Liang did not dispute a washing machine was installed in his unit but says it did not cause the leak. He says he showed the Latham’s technician the machine when they were investigating the leak’s source, and there was no mention of any issue with it at the time. He also said the cause was likely a clogged drain on the strata building’s roof (which had previously leaked). Volkers found this was not proven.

The second invoice was from Platinum Pro-Claim totalling $2,901.59 for repairs to Units 116, 216 and SL60. The invoice notes the cause of loss as a “faucet feed line under bathroom sink,” but does not identify where the bathroom sink was located, Volkers wrote in her decision. As well, the specific repairs completed by Platinum were not listed in the invoice submitted in evidence.

“There is no further evidence, expert or otherwise, from Latham’s or Platinum that shows Mr. Liang caused the leak or is otherwise responsible for it,” Volkers wrote. “I find Mr. Liang is not responsible for the leak. It follows that Mr. Liang is not responsible for the strata’s expenses resulting from the leak.”

Volkers said even if she found Liang responsible, the evidence does not show the strata corporation spent $9,843.15 repairing the leak. “The invoices in evidence do not reflect this amount,” she wrote. “The two invoices only total $3,608.24. It is unclear what further expenses were charged back to Mr. Liang’s strata lot, or on what basis.”

In its written submissions, the strata corporation also “inserted typed text that it says is a June 24, 2019, email from Latham’s. This email included an opinion that the leak was caused by an illegal laundry machine installation in SL60.”

But the email and its attachments were not submitted as documentary evidence.

“There is no way for me to determine whether the typed text contained within the strata’s written submissions is an authentic email, or who sent it,” Volkers said. “I also find it would be procedurally unfair to consider this alleged email when the strata neglected to provide it in evidence, and Mr. Liang says he specifically asked for a copy of it which was never provided.

“Finally, even if the email itself had been submitted as documentary evidence, I would not have accepted it as expert opinion evidence on the leak’s cause. This is because the email’s author and their qualifications to provide an expert opinion are not identified, as required by CRT.”

With files from Canadian Underwriter

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