By: Michelle Joy, RCM, Hamilton Office
From the WB Condo Connection, Volume 9, Issue 3
If you live in a Condominium built between 1995 and 2007 you may have heard of Kitec plumbing. Kitec piping is a flexible plastic pipe with copper fittings, which was marketed as a cheaper and easier to install alternative to copper pipes. Kitec plumbing was mainly used on the domestic hot and cold water system within the building, more specifically within the residential units.
Most recently, Kitec plumbing has become a buzz in the Condominium industry as a result of the North American Class Action Lawsuit regarding the premature failure of the pipes. Although the product was marketed as ‘corrosion resistant,’ it has been found to fail prematurely due to excessive water pressure or water running at temperatures hotter than the manufacturer’s rating of 77C (180F). As a result of these issues the product was recalled in 2005 and is no longer manufactured.
Industry professionals believe that Kitec piping will fail prematurely and at an accelerated rate. When leaks occur, the pipes are more likely to burst and cause major flooding as opposed to a pinhole leak.
First and foremost, the Board should ensure that the presence of Kitec Plumbing is disclosed on the Corporation’s status certificate. The Board may want to contact their lawyer to obtain appropriate wording.
The next step is for the Board to decide whether or not to replace the Kitec plumbing. Growing industry opinion is that the Board should proceed with the plumbing replacement in order to mitigate the potential for major loss. The Corporation should speak with their lawyer to obtain a professional opinion on the plumbing replacement.
Some Declarations state that piping contained within the unit boundaries set out in Schedule C, or piping that services exclusively one specific unit, is the responsibility of the unit owner to maintain and repair. Due to the potential for major loss as a result of a flood, Corporations have been advised that they may take on the project on behalf of all owners. Since a water leak would transfer between all the units, the Corporation has a responsibility to investigate and prevent these leaks, and mitigate any potential damage.
The Corporation may also want to engage their engineer to determine the extent of the Kitec within the building. For example, is it in all units? The common elements? Or both? This may require the engineers and Corporation to inspect several units to confirm the presence of the piping.
Based on the information received from the Corporation’s engineer and lawyer, the Corporation may proceed with the piping replacement. Throughout the project communication with all parties involved is extremely important. The use of professionals, lawyers and engineers throughout the duration of the project is imperative to ensure compliance with the Corporation’s Declaration and the Condominium Act.
Have your engineer manage the project, including creating specifications and tender to ensure qualified contractors are working in your building. The work required to replace the piping within the units can be very invasive for owners. Although we are maintaining the property we must also remember these are people’s homes.
Providing as much information to owners whether via notice or information meetings is key to a successful project. The better owners are prepared, the smoother the replacement will go. Invite your lawyer, engineer and selected contractor to the owner information meetings to answer any questions owners may have.
What actions should the Board of Directors take if they suspect their building may contain Kitec piping? The first step is to correctly identify the product through an inspection by the Corporation’s plumber. Kitec piping can be identified by markings on the pipes which a qualified plumber should be familiar with. If the plumber confirms the presence of Kitec piping it is important to take pro-active measures to address the issue.
Lastly, it is recommended that the Corporation notify their insurance provider of the presence of Kitec within the building due to the potential for a major flood and to ensure appropriate coverage. In addition, it is recommended home owners also notify their personal insurer.