November 7, 2018 at 11:27 am #2417
Posted by Brad M on November 24 2017 at 09:36 AM | 5 comments
Our condo association needs to replace or remove our wood fireplaces due to safety concerns identified during a WETT inspection. The fireplaces could be deemed common property (within the wall) or could be deemed part common property and part unit owner responsibility. Either way, the condo association will bear a significant cost that may need a special assessment. Approximately half of the units have fireplaces and half do not. Options to resolve the issue seem to be 1. replace wood burning fireplace, 2. install gas burning fireplace, 3. full removal of fireplace, all with varying costs.
We’re wondering if others have had similar issues and could share insights or recommendations, specifically related to:
1. Should the Board apply the same solution to every fireplace unit, or could unit owners choose an option (especially if unit owners bear half the cost)?
2. After replacement, what responsibility should the unit owner carry with regards to chimney sweeps, inspection, etc. (currently the association arranges and pays for these)?
Thanks for any insights you could share.
November 7, 2018 at 11:27 am #2418
The issue is a complicated one that requires careful review of the plan (to determine the exact boundary between the common property and unit and what portions of the fireplace, flue, etc are in each) and the bylaws. This issue can also impact the Corporation’s insurance policy and further be the source of contention amongst owners, especially if handled incorrectly. The Corporation should contact its solicitor to obtain a legal opinion on the matter and how to proceed.
TODD S on November 24 2017 at 10:03 AM
November 7, 2018 at 11:27 am #2419
You’ve got another difficult issue: owners who do not have fireplaces probably have good arguments to be excluded from a special assessment.
Gus V on November 24 2017 at 12:15 PM
November 7, 2018 at 11:27 am #2420
Thanks Todd and Gus for your comments. Do know that we have sought legal opinions on the matter, which certainly helps guide the decision-making. Part of the reason for posting on CCI is really to see how others have handled the inequity that gets highlighted on an issue like this. Other repair work that regularly happens can particularly benefit some units but not others. Owners usually do not get uptight about the inequity on other repair work. The threat of a special assessment seems to awaken the inequity issues that were laying dormant before.
Brad M on November 24 2017 at 05:21 PM
November 7, 2018 at 11:28 am #2421
We’ve been through this, but without the complications you face (i.e. all our units had fireplaces, and all were, by past resolution, the responsibility of the owners). But here’s what you should know anyway:
1. Don’t waste any time trying to find an authority to overturn the WETT inspector’s findings. We did that. Trust me. There is NOBODY who will take on that liability.
2. Your lawyer is probably advising you about communicating that use now is strictly prohibited, as common insurance coverage is at risk now that you have an “unsafe” call. We disclosed fully to our insurer, and told them what we were doing to address the problem. We kept them in the loop the entire time. Keep meticulous records.
3. Before you suggest/allow new wood fireplace installations (with attending maintenance costs, inspections, etc.), do some research on legislation in Canada around wood-burning fireplaces and particulate pollution. BC and the City of Montreal in particular have passed legislation, and it’s coming to every place — unless we happen to get global warming solved first.
4. Once you’re fully prepared with options, info, powerpoint, etc., hold a Town Hall. Show all the options, be prepared to take completed forms and payments on the spot (if applicable), and answer every question, until there are no more questions left.
Terry G on November 27 2017 at 01:11 PM
November 7, 2018 at 11:28 am #2422
Hi Terry, thank you so much for the advice. We really appreciate it. Some follow up comments.
1. We had a 2nd opinion on WETT inspection, revealing the same problems.
2. We have taken measures to cease use of fireplaces and insurance has been kept in the loop. Good reminder about records.
3. Good consideration about particulate pollution.
4. We have had an Extra-ordinary General Meeting before we had solutions, just to answer questions and get perspective. We will host another one when final options to choose and/or vote.
Brad M on December 05 2017 at 09:56 PM
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