Jamie Tait is angry, and he’s not alone.
On Wednesday night, more than 40 people met at Yukon College to discuss the need for a city-wide condominum association.
It was there that Tait told his tale.
Two years ago, he bought a condo for his son, Darryl, who had become confined to a wheelchair after injuring his back in a snowmobiling accident in 2009.
The new unit in Takhini’s Lansing Point complex was the only condo in Whitehorse that was suitable for his son, said Tait.
It didn’t come cheap.
“We could have bought a house for less money than we paid for that condo, but it had to be totally accessible for Darryl,” he said.
The problems with the building were apparent right from the start.
“We noticed them the very first winter before Darryl even got out of rehab,” he said.
Cracks started to appear in the drywall as the building settled.
“They said they were going to fix it, over and over,” said Tait. “(The developer) told me that to my face. Now he won’t even talk to us.”
The developer, Wayne Cunningham of Karaway Homes, also didn’t return a call from the Yukon News.
The buildings are still under a five-year structural warranty, but apparently it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, said Tait.
“The building basically has to fall down,” he said.
The condo board is now suing Karaway Homes, the engineers who worked on the foundation, their own insurance broker, the insurance company and the City of Whitehorse.
In its statement of claim, the condo board said that the foundations of both buildings at Lansing Point were laid improperly. Frost heaves are now causing the buildings to shift.
In court filings, the city admitted that it didn’t inspect the foundation. Instead, it relied on reports signed by the professional engineers. That’s routinely done with large projects like Lansing Point.
Both Karaway Homes and two engineering consultants, N.A Jacobsen and J.R. Paine & Associates, insist in their own court filings that they did nothing wrong.
“It’s bad enough dealing with your kid, and then dealing with this bullshit too,” said Tait, shaking his head. “I’m in a situation where there is no other building in this town where I would move my son into.
“I’m pretty pissed about this.”
Stories like this motivated Sunny Gray to try to get a Whitehorse condo association up and running.
Gray, who owns two condos himself, also runs a property management company that works with a lot of condo boards.
“Every board, they feel the issues that they’re facing are specific to their board, but I can tell you right now, that’s not the case,” he said. “A lot of the issues that are coming up are broad spectrum.”
At the meeting Wednesday night, Gray laid out his vision for the association.
The first is protection. “Protection from corruption on your board and protection from shady developers,” he said.
That’s not to say that all developers are bad, said Gray. In fact, he’d like to get developers involved with the association.
“Some of these guys have built the town,” he said. “They’ve been here their whole lives and have dedicated their time and energy to building a community. However, we do have that cross section who are taking advantage of the situation.”
The second point is unity.
Having condo owners organized would, Gray hopes, allow them to more effectively lobby the government for changes to condo regulations.
The territorial government is currently reviewing the Yukon Condominium Act. If condo owners want to have a seat at the table, they need to organize, he said.
“You can’t go to the government as one person to try to get something done. You need to have a voice, you need to have strength in numbers,” said Gray. “That’s the only way you’re going
to rectify issues. Otherwise, forget it, you’re just banging your head against the wall.”
Last month, the NDP proposed creating a law to protect homeowners from unscrupulous development. Yukon Party members replied that providing home warranties is probably best handled by the private sector.
If condo owners were organized and speaking with one voice, that might not have happened, said Gray.
The third point of the association is networking.
“If you were an association and you changed something in your bylaws and it worked positively for you, you’d be able to share that information with the board,” said Gray. “Or if you have a contractor for snow removal and he was efficient and affordable, you could say, ‘Use this guy,’ because it’s really hard to find contractors out there.”
The final point is education.
The rigour of running a condo board – taking minutes, holding meetings, managing finances – is a challenge that many boards find themselves unprepared for, said Gray.
Before the meeting ended, several attendees put themselves forward as possible candidates for the new association’s board of directors.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” said Gray. “I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy fix. I’m saying it’s necessary.”
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