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Strata Mondays #5 – Leaky Condos Part II

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

A leaky condo undergoing repairs

A leaky condo undergoing repairs

Q. I’ve heard that most of the systemic problems that caused the leaky condo crisis in the 90’s have been fixed. What’s changed since 1999? Are there still leaky condos being built?

A. [Read Part I of this post here] Changes in building design and technology and the building code have come into effect since the end of the 1990’s. Instead of thinking of the building as one system that needs to be sealed up to prevent air loss and thus reduce energy costs, we now consider two separate systems: the exterior wall and the building envelope. The building envelope includes the roof and exterior cladding. Building codes now require an airspace between the exterior cladding (such as hardi-plank siding or stucco) and the exterior wall (covered by a water-tight membrane like building paper or Tyvek®). The idea is to allow airflow in behind the cladding to dry out  any accumulated moisture, while at the same time creating a means by which any wind-driven rain can drain out via gravity. See below:

You may hear the term "Rainscreen" in new or remediated buildings.

You may hear the term "Rainscreen" in new or remediated buildings.

It should be noted that you can’t blame the leaky condo crisis in BC entirely on the building code. It has been discovered in many court cases regarding leaky buildings that the exteriors of some buildings were not built to the code that was in place at the time. However, it certainly was a contributing factor.

Many of the leaky buildings built during the leaky condo era have been remediated at great expense to the owners. Typically they now employ some sort of rainscreen construction as detailed above. Most will be without problems, as long as a regular maintenance programme is put into place and followed. In fact, the warranty that comes along with a remediation is usually contingent upon a proper maintenance schedule.

When shopping with a REALTOR® for condos, especially those built in the 1990s, you should ask whether or not the building has undergone remediation, and inspect all documents that lead up to the work being done, including the engineer’s report. There are some buildings in Victoria and vicinity that have not been remediated, but instead opted for a “preventative maintenance” programme that will end up costing them more money in the end.

In British Columbia, anything built with a building permit filed after July 1, 1999 must come with a ten year new home warranty. Usually these come in a 2-5-10 or 2-10-10 format: 2 years materials and labour on the home – this would cover things like nail pops, cabinetry, and other deficiencies. 5 or 10 years on the building envelope system, the exterior cladding and weather barrier of the home, and 10 years on the major structural components of the home.

What about condos built these days? Do they still leak? Hard to say. I’d tend to reason that if there was still widespread and systemic premature building envelope failures happening in modern construction, we’d be hearing a lot more about it on the news. I’m sure there are probably a few recently built buildings where there has been water ingress issues, but nowhere near the magnitude experienced last decade.

Check back next Monday for Part III, when we’ll talk about another type of leaky condo you don’t always hear about!

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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  • Doug

    I spoke with a Realtor in False Creek who stated that “some” Vancouver condo’s have been rain screened not just twice but in a few cases, THREE times at $60,000 per. Makes you think twice about strata’s and condo’s doesn’t it? Regards, Doug

  • The Leaky Condo Era has only just begun. Be warned if you buy a condo in BC you will surely be met with long term issues. Strata Fees will go up year after year to simply try to stay one step ahead of the problems that will ensue. Strata Corporations are now mandated by law to have 10 to 20 year plan to manage the potential failures of these poorley built structures. The big question is what happened to the construction industry in the 1990’s in BC that has led it to reject reliable sound building mechanisms
    and instead to use unreliable reckless building techiniques and inappropriate materials for the very moist environment in BC that have led to this disaster. These buildings are monumentally badly constructed. They will continue to fail in the future unlike anything built prior to this shift to the cheap, quick and dirty construction that we see now. Governments and permits officials have truly fallen down on the job out of greed and complaicancy. But make no mistake. They knew that this dasaster would occur, and that is why legislation was quickly formed to prevent them from being sued. All you need to do is a bit of reserach to locate these bylaws. You have them to thank.

  • Charleslehner1

    still leak…problem is execution, more than poor design.