Leak results in mould, ruined carpet, and possible health issues

CH writes:

Dear Paul: I own and live in a Condo on the bottom floor in Elliot Lake, ON.  In mid-June, my partner noticed that the carpet was wet in the living room, underneath our pantry.  Besides and underneath the pantry, the carpet had severe black mould.

It was discovered that the pipe running underneath my ceramic tiled kitchen floor had rotted out and the water was coming into my unit but seeping underneath the wall towards the living room. 

All the drywall that was affected was cut out.  The condo board proceeded to hire a contractor to cut through my floor in the kitchen to replace the pipe.  They then hired a contractor to fix the floor, the drywall and paint.  As an owner, I agreed to have only the part of the floor that needed to be fixed, retiled with a different tile to save money to the corporation.  The carpet in my living room is ruined with mould and I asked the condo board to also change the carpet or to credit me with the amount so that I can install a cheaper laminate flooring.  So far, they have refused, saying that it isn’t their responsibility.   I believe if there are no leaking pipes, there would have been no mouldy carpet.  I have not spent any time inside my condo, choosing to live at my cottage during Summer but I am looking to go back soon.  Thanks for your time.

Paul replies:

Dear CH: I am sorry to hear about your problem. You appear to have been overly generous with the condo corporation in accepting that it replace the flooring with a different tile. I hope that it fits in well with the older tile. If it is not a good match, it could possibly affect the resale value of your unit. Assuming that the mould under your living room carpet was caused by the leaking pipes, I would think that the condo corporation should remove the carpet, do some remediation to the floor underneath to ensure that the mould is all gone and then install the new carpeting. While I understand that you are not happy that this incident has ruined your carpet, the more worrisome issue is the mould. As you probably already know, mould can be toxic and can cause serious health problems. Mould spreads quickly given the right conditions and could be airborne.

What should be your next steps? First, you should be keeping a diary of the events thus far and all those to come. Include when you notified the condo corporation, when did they respond, what work was done and by what contractors? Note any health issues that you have noticed since the leak was discovered and even before if you think it is relevant. Second, you should consult your governing documents to determine what, if anything is said regarding responsibility for repairs after damage. Next, I would contact the public health department in your area and see if they would come to your suite to do an air quality assessment and analyze the mould under your carpet. Public health might conduct these tests at no cost.  If public health will not do it at no cost to you, I would ask the condo corporation to pay the cost, to set everyone’s mind at ease.

I would not be too hasty in attempting to strike a deal with the condo board. It would appear that the damage could fall under its responsibility. As you know, I am not a lawyer. If the board refuses to remedy the situation, I would encourage you to consult an attorney that practices condominium law in Ontario. This is not simply a case of a ruined carpet, but also one concerning your health. Be well!

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