Leaky Condos – What are they & how to avoid purchasing one

Eli the Octopus calls the ocean his home. The ocean is full of water. The condo building you are buying into shouldn’t be filling with water and if it is, it may be a Leaky Condo.

What is a ‘Leaky Condo’?

The term ‘leaky condo’ refers to multi-family condominium buildings built between the late 1980s to early 2000s with building envelope issues causing damage by rainwater infiltration. The moisture damages the wall cavities and causes rot, mold and structural issues over time. Typically, these leaky condo buildings are wood frame, low rise buildings with stucco cladding.

One of the factors that brought about the leaky condo crisis in British Columbia was a construction boom in the multi-family condominium market. This attracted many developers, contractors, designers from California, a climate significantly different compared to the coastal region of British Columbia. The design features of the buildings were inappropriate for our climate and were built for an average rainfall of approximately 400 millimeters versus the rainfall that coastal British Columbia would see, closer to 1500 millimeters.

What are the costs of purchasing a Leaky Condo?

The costs associated with leaky condos with ongoing structural issues include potential special levies per home in order to remediate the moisture ingress. Special levies are additional expenses that are paid by each home owner in a building if the contingency reserve fund does not have enough to cover the cost of the repair and remediation.

How to prevent yourself from purchasing a Leaky Condo.

Check which year the building was built in.

Leaky condos are typically buildings built between the late 1980’s to early 2000’s. These condominiums built during this time were built with building code issues, building construction, and architecture methods that lasted over two decades until a realization of what was going on and why buildings were experiencing these issues. Starting in 1996, Rainscreening became a requirement in Vancouver for all buildings, and in 2006 for the remainder of coastal areas of British Columbia.

Check if the building has been rainscreened or has overhangs.

A solution to Vancouver’s leaky condo crisis was rainscreening the buildings that were affected & making it a requirement after 1996 for new buildings to have rain screens.

Rainscreening is the process where a drainage cavity is placed behind the building’s wall material that allows any water that penetrates the outer cladding to vent or drain out. This also allows air to circulate, which reduces the chances of mold and rot to form due to the consistent moisture.

If the building has not been rain screened, the process of having it rainscreened can become quite costly for a strata corporation. If the strata’s contingency reserve fund balance cannot cover the entire cost, each household would then have to pay a special levy. The special levy cost per household can also depend on the size of the building and the number of units.

Another feature that is used to prevent water ingress are overhangs, which are the more economical option compared to rainscreening. Overhangs are found on roofs and above window fixtures. They extend over on a building and act as an umbrella to make sure rain does not contact the weak points of the building that can allow moisture buildup that may potentially lead to mold and rot.

Consult your real estate professionals & home inspectors.

The best tool that a client could have is having a qualified realtor that represents you. By using a qualified realtor that has experience in the area and the type of property that you’re buying, you will be able to rely on their expertise and knowledge of leaky condos.  They will also be able to assist you in understanding and reviewing the respective buildings’ condo documents, engineering and depreciation reports.

A home inspection with a qualified and licensed home inspector is also an insurance against buying a leaky condo.

Review the Condo Documents and Engineering & Depreciation Reports

Be sure to ask your Realtor for the condo documents and engineering & depreciation reports and carefully review them. Reviewing the minutes from strata council monthly and annual general meetings will give you a better understanding of the work that has already been done, is currently being done and future projects. Any mentions of leaks, water ingress, water damage, and moisture issues in these documents, and engineering reports, envelope assessments, or depreciation reports may be an indicator of a leaky condo.

How can Eli help?

If you are thinking of purchasing into a building older than 2006 in Greater Vancouver, keep in mind that leaky condos are everywhere and may not be a visible defect. Make sure to ask your real estate professional to run an Eli Report to help identify if the building is indeed a leaky condo and have a better understanding of the building’s health and finances.