Sunday, June 28, 2009


I have now a moment in time to blog. For the last several weeks I have been busily coping with my household being invaded by workers. My wife and I dismantled our master bedroom and the library, packed everything away within our condo, and protected it from the construction dust. Dismantling the library meant moving 7 book shelves, two sets of desks, and disconnecting myself from the web. We draped plastic across doorways, hung it from ceilings and used it to cover furniture. It was like being stuck in a state of being perpetually half-moved.
It was horrible. And it was stressful.
The city mandated work was completed last Friday. I painted like a madman, and between the walls and ceilings of the two spaces, spread by roller and brush 11 gallons of paint. This last week we began to re-assemble our home. I finished most of the baseboard work, and today I attached the last of the drapery hardware and then we hung the draperies.

This is the first writing I've done since the end of May. Even now it is relatively late, after having watched 'The Dog Whisperer.'

Now I would like to share some lessons learned in being a purchaser of a condo.
When we chose to buy our home in 2003 — which is only our second home purchase — we were told that previous owners had made some 'simple' changes to the second floor loft area. The real estate agent elaborated that some 'unlivable' storage space had been recovered by having a wall knocked down and a floor put in. The agent made no reference to the work having been done with or without permits, and my wife and I knew not enough to ask about that.

Two years ago a disgruntled strata owner complained to the city about the changes. Her objective was to have the allocated unit entitlements changed to reflect the changed living area of the lofts. However, she approached this incorrectly, as the city has no jurisdiction over changing unit entitlements. Such a change falls under provincial statutes, not municipal, and is a very onerous change to effect.

In an interesting turn, when the city checked their records for permitted changes they discovered that they had not a single permit registered against our complex of four buildings. As this was known to be untrue, one of the owners had his signed permit taken to the city. Sure enough the city was unable to find their copy of it in their system. Thereupon the clerk confessed that a system change in previous years had 'lost' records, and that it looked like our building complex was one of those so affected.

After negotiating with the city on how best to proceed, our complex hired a city-acceptable civil engineer who accepted responsibility for investigating all the 151 units and common areas for changes and then over seeing that the deficiencies to the building code were rectified. For most the fixes were $10k plus, with a few into the 20s. Ours was small, one of the smallest in the building, at just under 4k because who ever had done the work had done almost everything properly, with the proper joists and joist hangers, proper headers and fire rated gyproc (mostly), and vapour barrier.

After the inspection and the repair work was completed, I did the painting, and took advantage of the contractor's scaffolding to paint the ceiling, beyond what had been repaired.


Ensure that your changes are municipally permitted. When buying a place, ask if there have been changes and whether or not they have been permitted. And if they have, get the signed copies from seller or his/her agent. (With permits my wife and i would have had far less disruption and cost.) Also, i recommend that you (or your agent) visit city hall to check if there have been permits issued against the unit. If changes have been made, and permits are not available, use this to bargain for a lower price. Our neighbours up the corridor are looking at a bill of between 100 and 200 thousand to fix the un-permitted changes, a fix which will have a devastating and possibly irrevocable impact on their magazine-beautiful home.