Dear Condo Smarts: A few weeks ago, you wrote an article about who was responsible for the water delivery lines in townhouse units.
Since then, our strata council has met and decided it would be a much cheaper and more certain decision to have the strata corporation replace everyone's water lines in their townhouse units as opposed to our 107 owners each having to hire a separate contractor.
We have spoken with our lawyer, who is drafting a bylaw for us at our AGM in the first week of January, with the hopes of a planned re-piping in the summer of 2013.
At the same time, we were also asked to look at the gas lines that service the gas fireplaces and, in some cases, kitchen stoves and outdoor barbecues.
Is it safe to assume that repair or replacement of the gas lines, as well as the water lines, would be the responsibility of the individual owners unless we have a bylaw in place?
Dear Owen: The service lines for gas, electric and water all depend on the location of the lines, how the service is metered/ monitored, and whether they are capable of being used in connection with another strata lot.
If the townhouse unit has a separate gas meter, and the line serves only that strata lot, and the bylaws and the strata plan indicate the service as exclusive to that strata lot and the responsibility of that strata lot, then yes, that owner will have to plan for the eventual replacement and renewal of the lines.
Gas lines, like water lines, do not last forever. We have many townhouse and apartment-style strata properties in the province that are more than 40 years old and due for major upgrades.
We also have had buildings recently shut down their gas lines as a result of leaks discovered when pressure tests were done on the system, as part of the routine building maintenance and inspections.
As with water lines, it comes down to economics, safety and protection of your property assets.
If you leave the maintenance and renewal of the gas lines and gas fireplaces to each owner, will they act responsibly and ensure they are operating safely and efficiently? Sadly, many owners make choices based on economics, not safety or protecting your property values.
If the fireplaces are not exhausting properly, if the outer metal casings of the fireplaces have erosion allowing discharge into the living space or the lines are in risk of failure, the health and safety of the building occupants is at risk.
At the very least, it may be a good practice for the strata corporation to contract a routine inspection of the gas-fired units.
Then the owners might still be responsible for any additional maintenance and upgrades, but at least the first part of the service would be complete.
Even in a high-rise building, the gas fireplaces are the responsibility of each owner to maintain and repair, unless the bylaws stipulate otherwise.
As with most building systems, it is cheaper for one contract to be negotiated for even just four units than four separate contracts, and the strata owners and occupants are satisfied that the system is operating safely and efficiently.
Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners' Association. Send questions to him c/o At Home, Times Colonist, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, B.C. V8W 2N4 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The association's website is www.choa.bc.ca.
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