Welcome to this month’s installment of Dear Urbaneer where I tackle a range of real estate questions from clients concerning buying, selling and home ownership issues. This month, we are going to talk about the pitfalls of Kitec Plumbing, which I’ve talked about before in this post “Is Kitec Plumbing Draining Your Pocketbook?”. This time we are going to zero in on issues with Kitec plumbing in condominiums.
I’m looking to buy a condominium and have been narrowing down my preferred location and features wish list. However, in my research I’ve come across a lot of information about the presence of Kitec plumbing, which I understand was used frequently in the construction of condominiums in Toronto. Is this true? Could I be taking on a serious problem? What should I be looking for?
What Might be Behind my Walls?
Here's my reply:
Firstly, you are very wise to do thorough research before any property purchase. Anticipating any potential problems and addressing them prior to purchase can help to alleviate any financial or emotional strain that you might encounter from existing problems. And your happiness at home extends far beyond the walls. Click here to read my Healthy Home series.
The existence of Kitec Plumbing in a Toronto condominium can very well be one of those problems, as there can be a hefty price tag attached for unsuspecting buyers. Kitec was a very popular material for plumbing installations during roughly 1995 and the late 2010s in Toronto. Kitec was originally touted as a sturdy, cost-effective material that was resistant to corrosion; it was later discovered that Kitec was defective. In fact, instead of standing up to corrosion, it actually accelerates the process.
This is an issue because corrosion is one of the biggest culprits behind pipe and fixture leaks and/or breaks. And, as anyone who has ever experienced a plumbing leak can tell you, it doesn’t take a lot of water or a lot of time for serious water damage to occur. What is even worse about damage happening as a result of failure in Kitec Plumbing tends to be of the burst pipe variety, as opposed to a pinhole leak, experts believe.
A burst pipe can cause a tremendous amount of damage in a short period of time. And considering the connected vertical living spaces in a condo, the damage could be widespread.
Kitec Plumbing was used with great frequency in the construction of condominiums in Toronto, so, depending on the age of your building, it is highly possible that the unit and its common areas could be impacted. At any rate, it is an important bullet point on your due diligence list.
One way to know if you have to be concerned about kitec plumbing in a condo building is to look at the condo corporation number. If the number is between 1200 and 1900, it may contain kitec, as buildings are registered by date of completion.
Condominium Corporations which are aware of its presence should be obliged to reveal this information in the Status Certificate, but I've come across several instances this past year where this information was not forthcoming. A Seller, and their representatives, are also required to disclose this to a prospective Purchaser, if it is something that they are aware of. The existence of Kitec plumbing is considered a “material fact”, i.e. a factor that could influence a Buyer’s decision-making process with a property. Click here to read, “Kitec Plumbing And Material Facts”.
How Can I Spot Kitec Plumbing?
If you’ve got Kitec plumbing, you should be able to see orange and blue pipes (for hot and cold water, respectively). You’ll see pipes stamped with one or more of the following brand names: Kitec, PlumbBetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls or Plomberie Améliorée and Kitec or KTC on the fittings.
Look under your bathroom vanities and kitchen sink, where they will be most visible. It’s also a good idea to have a look in your Condo’s mechanical room around the central hot water tank or around the sinks that might be present in common area amenities like a fitness centre change room.
Both Buyers And Seller Should Take Note
Certainly, if you are in the market for a condominium you should have this on your radar, certainly if the building that you are looking at was built between 1995-2010 or so. The incidence that Kitec was used in Toronto during that time period was very high, so the probability that the condo has (or had) Kitec plumbing is feasible. And what I'm finding particularly fascinating is that even though these condominiums are anywhere from 8 to 23 years old, there are numerous instances this year alone where condominium corporations and/or Sellers are only just disclosing the presence of Kitec Plumbing. It's been very hush hush which I consider problematic given how significant a building component plumbing is.
If you are a Seller, be aware that the existence of Kitec Plumbing will impact your selling process and potentially your price. You should disclose this information to your Buyer to protect yourself from legal action down the road. Also, it’s not a bad idea to get a quote for repairs ahead of time so that you are armed with that information when it comes time to negotiate or even be prepared to remediate the issue as part of your selling contract.
Click here to read “'It Was Just Very Shocking': Faulty Pipes Cause Headache For Toronto Condo Owner”.
The Importance Of A Property Inspection
There is always merit in conducting a property inspection. In a hot property market, where the Fear of Missing Out has long been a guiding force for many a property hunter, forgoing a pre-purchase inspection is a roll of the dice that you don’t want to take. It can seem like a reasonable risk, especially when you are looking at a condominium that isn’t very old and you don’t see anything that looks suspicious with your own cursory look through.
However, discovering the presence of Kitec plumbing (or other potentially costly issues that lie behind the walls) is exactly the kind of thing that you’d uncover with a property inspection. At the very least, this lets you to make an informed decision and to adjust your pricing as you feel is necessary.
When you do a property inspection for a dwelling, you are looking for structural deficiencies in things like the roof, the foundation, the heating and cooling systems, etc. Many of these (if not all) would be covered under the Condominium Corporation, which you would assume would be covered in the Status Certificate, but it isn’t always the case. And if you are forgoing a property inspection, you better at least as a minimum have your lawyer review the Status Certificate as a minimum. Prudence is always advisable when you are buying a home.
Take for instance, this story from the Toronto Star,” Kitec Plumbing In Condos Should Be Revealed: Bob Aaron” . The Buyer in this story bought a condominium that had Kitec plumbing in it. Although the condominium board and property managers would have most likely been aware of the presence of Kitec plumbing, they didn’t disclose it in the status certificate. Furthermore, this Buyer elected to skip a property inspection, where the Kitec plumbing would have been revealed. The end of the story for this Buyer is that she had to reduce her selling price when she resold the condo as Kitec plumbing was discovered by the new purchasers.
Although really, the Board should include this information on the Status Certificate, they weighed out the imminent likelihood of the pipes failing. This approach isn’t uncommon unfortunately. As of yet, there is no case law compelling them to do, but they really should for a variety of legal and other reasons.
Click here to read “5 Things To Know About Kitec Plumbing” for more information on this. This post “Kitec: What Is Coming Down The Pipe” talks about the varied approaches that Condominium Corporations take to disclosing information around Kitec Plumbing.
Are These Repairs Going To Be Expensive?
Being on the hook for Kitec plumbing reparis can be costly. Click here to read, “Kitec Plumbing In Your Home Will Cost You”.
Repairing Kitec plumbing can run anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the situation. And then there is the potential cost of water damage and damage to your neighbour’s units if you discover that you’ve got Kitec Plumbing after a pipe has burst.
Earlier this year Urbaneer.com sold a stacked townhouse on The Queensway where the Seller disclosed both the presence of Kitec Plumbing and his willingness to replace it at his expense as part of the purchase price. The cost, just over $8000 for a 2bed 2bath upper suite, was completed by a credible plumbing firm. Representing the Buyers, we addressed its replacement in the Agreement of Purchase & Sale that included the following clauses:
"The Seller agrees to engage a licensed master plumber to remove and replace the existing kitec plumbing per the attached quote in advance of the revised completion date and replace the plumbing trap below the kitchen sink at his own expense. All parties acknowledge the Seller may use an alternate licensed plumber to undergo the equivalent work depending on scheduling availability and costs.
Further to the foregoing, the Buyer and Seller agree that the tradespeople or tradesperson contracted to perform this remediation shall be directed to re-route the water lines down the partition wall that separates the hot water closet from the laundry closet and cut and cap the existing lines in the exterior wall or ensure that the thickness of the existing spray foam insulation as well as the continuity of the vapour barrier in the exterior wall are maintained. The parties agree that workmanship and services rendered shall be at the level of accepted industry standards. Incomplete or shoddy workmanship will require re-attendance at the Seller's own expense.
The Seller will complete these repairs not later than Ten (10) business days prior to the revised completion date of this agreement at his own expense. All parties acknowledge there will be an industry standard warranty transferred to buyer upon completion of work. Following remediation, the Seller agrees to have the Buyers come to the property to view the remediation in advance of fixing/patching the access holes. All parties acknowledge this viewing will not constitute one of the 'purchaser visits' referenced in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. All parties agree any access holes made in the laundry closet and water heater closet will be closed up with flat panel covers on or before the completion date at the Seller's expense. Any access holes required in exposed drywall wall and ceiling surfaces will be refinished with existing patches of drywall, mudded/sanded and painted on or before completion at the Seller's own expense. The Buyer acknowledges there may be some slight discolouration in the ceiling due to new white paint being put on an aged ceiling paint."
If you're facing this potentiality, check out the entire post in my March 2018 - Home of the Month - The Queensway
Class Action Lawsuit & Property Insurance
There is a class action lawsuit and settlement in effect in North America for homeowners affected by Kitec plumbing. Homeowners have until January 2020 to file a compensation claim. However, by all reports, there are so many claimants that the money a homeowner might receive for repairs isn’t really substantial. Click here to read “Kitec Plumbing Lawsuit Impacts Homes And Condos Built After 1997”.
There is also the issue of property insurance. Criteria will vary from insurance company to insurance company, but typically coverage from damage from a plumbing problem is only covered if the problem is “sudden or accidental”. If you neglect to fix a plumbing problem that you are aware of (i.e. a leaky pipe), your coverage could be denied. Technically, Kitec can fall under this category, but it is a grey area. It’s worth covering your bases and investigating. You could end up having to spend a lot of money.
Click here to read “Kitec Could Stop Your Clients From Getting Homeowners Insurance”.
Do I Need A Permit?
In Toronto, you do require a plumbing permit when you're addressing the replacement of Kitec Plumbing. In fact, as this issue has increasingly come to light, the City of Toronto has begun encouraging condominium corporations to remediate all the Kitec Plumbing at once so as to streamline the repair and replacement process. One reason is there's a backlog of permits awaiting to be issued as individual condominium owners submit permits for the replacement of Kitec Plumbing. Think about it, if a 200 suite condo suddenly discloses the presence of Kitec Plumbing, there will be an ongoing process of remediation moving forward that potentially means multiple permits underway at once. Multiply that by dozens of condominiums undergoing Kitec Plumbing replacement and there could be thousands of Plumbing Permits being issued and monitored to completion.
Because of this, the City of Toronto would rather issue one Building Specific permit to ensure all Kitec Plumbing replacement is resolved collectively by one firm doing consistent work, both to streamline the process and ensure all units are addressed using similar materials and execution. To date this has not been the case, which means there may be a lot of condos which have piece meal repairs that could result in future issues. Regardless, if your condominium unit has Kitec Plumbing, ensure you get a permit and document the remediation with photos, in the event come the future you need to demonstrate it's been property completed to the standards of both the city and your condominium corporation.
Click here for “Homeowner’s Guide to Building Permits”.
What all of this underscores is that caution, research and a pragmatic approach is the best way to go about making a property purchase to protect your investment today and for the years to come. With over two decades in Toronto’s Real Estate Trenches, we’re here to guide you!
If you enjoyed this post, check out these other thought-provoking pieces:
Thanks for reading!
As the years roll on, more and more layers are added to the complexity of the Toronto real estate market. Do you or someone you love need assistance buying or selling? We are here to help!
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
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