February 15, 2024 Dükkancılar Law 0 Comments

First question to determine responsibility for property damages caused by water leaks in a strata is whether the water leak originated from common property or not.

Strata’s obligation to repair and maintain common property and common assets

In order to hold a Strata responsible for water leaks originated from common property or limited common property, the leak must be caused by the strata corporation’s negligence.

In the legal case of Jeannotte v. Strata VIS 2899, 2018 BCCRT 288, damage occurred to the owner’s strata lot due to water leaks originating from common property, specifically an exterior rooftop gutter. The owner pursued reimbursement for the repair expenses from the strata corporation, alleging negligence in the maintenance of the gutter. The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) determined that the strata corporation was indeed negligent and consequently directed it to compensate the owner for the incurred costs of repairs.

As per section 72(1) of the Strata Property Act [SBC 1998] C.43, the strata corporation must repair and maintain common property and common assets. As per section 72(2) of the Act, a strata corporation may, by bylaw, make an owner responsible for the repair and maintenance of limited common property. However, as per section 72(2) of the Act, the strata corporation makes an owner responsible for the repair and maintenance of limited common property only enacting or amending its bylaws.

What if the water leaked from one owner’s strata unit into another strata unit ?

In the legal matter of Strata Plan K 407 v. Kelly, 2019 BCCRT 789, an issue arose when water seeped from the strata lot belonging to the respondent owner into the unit located directly below. The respondent did not contest the fact that the malfunction of a specific component, the strainer connecting the bathtub to the drain line, was the cause of the water leakage.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) determined that the strainer was not classified as part of the common property. Consequently, the CRT ruled that the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the strainer rested with the respondent, as outlined in paragraphs 37, 48, and 49 of the judgment.

It is trite law that an inference can be drawn that a unit owner is liable in negligence for the escaped water unless the owner can provide an explanation to show there was no breach of a duty or obligation.( Mingxi Yu v. Maiwand Ahmadzai, 2018 BCCRT 791 at para 46)

Strata Corporation’s obligation to insure

A prevalent misunderstanding exists among strata councils, strata managers, and strata lot owners, wherein it is erroneously believed that only the strata corporation itself is eligible to avail the benefits of a strata corporation’s insurance policy. This misperception overlooks the provisions outlined in the Act, specifically highlighting that, notwithstanding the policy terms, strata lot owners, tenants, and individuals habitually occupying strata lots are recognized as additional named insureds ( Strata Property Act s. 155(b) and s.155(c)).

Consequently, when a strata corporation declines to file a claim for liability or property damage under its insurance policy, an owner, tenant, or other occupant of the strata corporation possesses the right to directly make a claim on the policy. Furthermore, these individuals retain the option to initiate legal action against the strata corporation’s insurer if the insurer rejects the claim made by the owner, tenant, or occupant (Aminpour v. Strata Plan NW 1990, 2010 BCSC 592).

In the case of LeRuyet v. Strata Plan NW 3420, 2019 BCCRT 612, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) established that the strata corporation had a duty of care towards the strata lot owner to ensure the completion of all repairs covered by the strata corporation’s insurance policy. The CRT emphasized that the strata corporation lacked the authority to deny coverage under the policy to the owner. This decision was reached after a claim had been initiated on the strata corporation’s policy due to water damage in the owner’s strata lot. However, the strata corporation withdrew the claim before the work was finished, citing the owner’s alleged non-cooperation with the restoration contractor.

The case of Varshney v. Strata Plan BCS 1677, 2020 BCCRT 1335, provides another example wherein the CRT determined that it was significantly unfair, as per the meaning outlined in s. 164 of the Act, for the strata corporation not to pursue a claim on the strata corporation’s insurance policy on behalf of the owner regarding damage to the owner’s strata lot following a water leak.

In conclusion, navigating the complexities of strata law and effectively addressing disputes or damages within a strata scheme requires the expertise of seasoned legal professionals. Dukkancilar Law, with its team of experienced strata lawyers, stands out as a beacon of guidance and support for those entangled in strata-related legal matters. Whether it’s resolving conflicts, claiming damages, or understanding the nuances of strata legislation, engaging with a knowledgeable strata lawyer from Dukkancilar Law ensures that your rights are protected and your interests are effectively represented. The importance of having a specialized strata lawyer cannot be overstated, as they bring a depth of understanding and experience that is crucial for navigating the intricate landscape of strata law and securing the best possible outcomes for their clients.