Renovation hell: kitchen makeover causes flood at Vancouver highrise, owner liable for $41,000 costs

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      Vancouver condo owner Said Esmaeilioun wanted a new kitchen.

      But instead of a dream home makeover, the project turned into a nightmare.

      A work performed during the renovation caused a massive flood at the Vancouver highrise.

      Esmaeilioun now finds himself liable for more than $41,000 in costs to the strata corporation.

      As a B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) relates, it all started in 2018.

      Esmaeilioun hired a project manager and a construction company help renovate his eighth-floor condo unit.

      The project “contemplated new kitchen cabinets (with the plumbing and appliances in the same locations), new vanities, internal doors and flooring, and new paint”.

      Esmaeilioun “believed that he had approval from the strata”, and so he went ahead.

      The strata, which later filed a successful claim against the owner before the CRT, asserted that it did not authorize the renovation.

      “In order to accommodate the new kitchen cabinets, a sprinkler head in the fire sprinkler system needed to be moved,” tribunal member Lynn Scrivener related in her reasons for decision.

      And so Esmaeilioun hired a company called T&T Fire Protection Inc. to move the sprinkler head.

      On April 13, 2018, T&T attended the strata lot, worked on the sprinkler system, and the “caretaker or someone else associated with the strata turned off the water supply”.

      The water supply was restored after T&T finished.

      “Within a short time, a problem developed with the sprinkler system and resulted in a large flood,” Scrivener recalled.

      Moreover, the flooding “caused significant water damage to other strata lots and to the strata’s CP [common property], including the elevators”.

      “Because the sprinkler system on the entire 8th floor was not functioning, the strata’s insurance adjuster recommended a ‘fire watch’, which apparently involved having someone sit on the 8th floor 24 hours per day in order to deal with a fire if one occurred,” Scrivener noted.

      As a result of the flooding, the strata incurred repair and other costs totalling $40,884.12, which were not covered by its insurance.

      The strata charged the money to Esmaeilioun's account, but the condo owner did not pay.

      In her reasons for decision, Scrivener determined that Esmaeilion violated the strata’s bylaw requiring owners to secure strata approval before undertaking alterations.

      “I find that the evidence before me does not establish that the strata approved Mr. Esmaeilioun’s renovations in writing as required by the bylaws,” Scrivener wrote.

      Scrivener also pointed out that even if the strata did approve the proposed renovations, the scope of work did “not include any reference to the sprinkler system”.

      “As the strata was not aware of the need to relocate a sprinkler head to accommodate the new kitchen cabinets, it could not have approved an alteration to the CP [common property] sprinkler system,” the tribunal member stated.

      Scrivener also mentioned that Esmaeilioun requested to file a third-party claim against T&T.

      The condo owner claimed that T&T’s work was “negligent and caused the water damage, so that it should be responsible for the costs claimed by the strata in this dispute”.

      However, Scrivener recalled that a CRT vice chair issued a 2020 preliminary decision stating that the tribunal does “not have the jurisdiction to resolve the proposed third-party claim against T&T”.

      Esmaeilioun asked the CRT not to resolve the dispute between him and the strata “in order that he could have all of the claims heard at the British Columbia Supreme Court”.

      The tribunal vice chair “decided not to refuse to resolve the dispute”.

      “Accordingly,” Scrivener wrote, “only the strata’s claims are before me, and I make no findings about T&T’s potential liabilities or responsibilities.”

      The tribunal member ordered Esmaeilioun to pay the strata a total of $41,541.96.

      The sum includes $40,884.12, $407.84 in pre-judgment interest, and $250 for CRT fees.

      The strata was represented before the tribunal by lawyer K. Katherine Uppal.