The Bellavera Green Condo, Leduc Alberta, has suffered a massive, catastrophic, failure requiring all 150 of the residents (85 units) to vacate the premises. The reasons: code-failing fire alarm system, missing or damaged firewalls, condemned exterior staircase, non-sustained heat and electric, a second phase abandoned – unsafe and unsecured, and inability for emergency vehicles to access the building.
It is unclear who has title to the units (it’s not clear if the developer handed over title to occupied units), who to go after for costs, and the developer – Kevyn Frederick – has conveniently disappeared. As with catastrophic failures of this type, residents who have mortgages will remain responsible for their payments even if they can never return to their units, or have other costs until such time they could reside again at the Bellavera Green.
In all, 150 people (and those that rely upon them) have suffered grievous fiscal harm due to the mismanagement and greed of yet another developer. And I lay the blame clearly and solely at the foot of the developer and none others. Developers have full and final control over the building and plans. It is their choice to follow legislation, or to cut corners and ignore building codes. The rest of the infrastructure – including building inspectors – is just there to try to catch errors. But these errors are not there because they haven’t been caught; they are there at the failure of the developer. Trying to pass responsibility off on inspectors is a lot like saying “you didn’t catch me, so I’m innocent.”
That’s why fools who imply that the Bellavera Green owners who put down money and purchased mortgages have a responsibility to the failure of the condominium because of “Caveat Emptor” – or “if you were stupid enough to buy into this building then too bad for you” are pathetic and dim-witted.
The whole issue of Caveat Emptor, for a situation like this, was thrown out with Supreme Court of Canada judgement of Winnipeg Condominium Corporation No. 36 v. Bird Construction Co  1 S.V.R. 85, January 26 1995 (further discussion here):
First, it is reasonably foreseeable to contractors that, if they design or construct a building negligently and if that building contains latent defects as a result of that negligence, [purchasers] of the building may suffer personal injury or damage to other property when those defects manifest themselves.
In this case, the act of negligence: that it fails to meet code, and there is a real and true concern over devastating fire; so that personal injury or damage: the effects of such fire, that -
The reasonable likelihood that a defect in a building will cause injury to its inhabitants is also sufficient to ground a contractor’s duty in tort to subsequent purchasers of the building for the cost of repairing the defect if that defect is discovered prior to any injury and if it poses a real and substantial danger to the inhabitants of the building.
And the ruling seems to support my thought that the sole responsibility for catastrophic failures like this lay solely in the hands of the developer:
Apart from the logical force of holding contractors liable for the cost of repair of dangerous defects, a strong underlying policy justification also exists for imposing liability in these cases. Maintaining a bar against recoverability for the cost of repair of dangerous defects provides no incentive for plaintiffs to mitigate potential losses and tends to encourage economically inefficient behaviour. Allowing recovery against contractors in tort for the cost of repair of dangerous defects thus serves an important preventative function by encouraging socially responsible behaviour.
In the end, the owners are in for a long term amount of lost monies and (more importantly) time that will be required in moving forward with their lives. It’s a sad thing, and the province needs to put better protection in place to help stave off this type of abuse by developers in the future.