Who pays the damages?

Tony Gioventu

 file (Fizkes/Getty Images)

file (Fizkes/Getty Images)

Dear Tony:

A council member had a barbecue grill overheat last summer and cause $650 worth of damages to the siding of our townhouses. At the time, the strata corporation immediately had it repaired to prevent any further damage to our walls. Everyone in the strata assumed the amount was paid for by the owner of the barbecue. But as it turned out, there was never any attempt to collect the funds. Nothing showed in the minutes of the council meetings and there weren’t any revenues at the end of the year other than the strata fees, and no receivables were shown on the balance sheet. The new strata council had a similar situation this past week when a barbecue that was too close cracked a plexi-glass panel. We had the glass replaced immediately for safety reasons and notified the owner of their responsibility to pay for the damages as a result of their carelessness. The owner has now responded back to us challenging why he has to pay for this repair when the council member did not have to pay for last year’s damages. Can we go back and charge the previous owner for the damages or do we have to waive this fee as well or should we start from here and move forward?

- Kate J.  from North Vancouver

Dear Kate:

It is only reasonable for an owner to be responsible for either an insurance deductible or any amounts below an insurance deductible when damages are caused to the common property and common assets of the strata corporation. If there was no cost, why would anyone care about their actions? Administering bylaws and addressing matters such as insurance deductibles are often challenging for strata corporations when there is a history of unfair or inconsistent application or enforcement. Rather than waive the debt, most strata councils simply don’t raise the issue and the matter is often forgotten. This is one of the principle reasons for strata council to develop itemized meeting agendas with action items that form the minutes. The agenda and minutes provide a record of what was done, a financial record of what funds are owed, why they are owed and the reason they are owed. The hardest part of the job for a new council is trying to understand what decisions the previous council made. It may still be possible to collect the amount from both the previous council member and the current owner. Start by reviewing the previous year’s minutes. One item to look for is whether the council member who caused the original damages was part of the discussions or any decisions relating to the damages. Council members must recuse themselves from portions of council meetings that relates to bylaw enforcements or matters where they have an interest in the outcome of the decision.

Sincerely, Tony Gioventu

Executive Director

Condominium Home Owners Association (CHOA)