More than two years after finding out their building wasn’t built to code, dozens of condo owners in Surrey, B.C., are suing the developer and contractors behind the project.
Homeowners with units in the building filed a lengthy lawsuit this year against the developer, contractor, construction manager, architect and engineers — just about everyone who had a hand in the tower’s creation — claiming their homes have lost value.
“The construction deficiencies and dangerous defects have resulted in continuous property damage and loss to the [strata],” the claim said.
The lawsuit is the latest development in more than seven years of investigations and disputes over the tower — which, according to the lawsuit, was supposed to be a “state-of-the-art” home for hundreds of families when it was completed in 2013. Lawsuit claims developer should’ve caught mistakes.
The Ultra, a modern concrete-and-glass building, stands on a dead-end street just a few minutes’ walk from Surrey City Hall. There are more than 360 units in the building, with a penthouse listed for as much as $1.6 million.
Problems with the tower were made public in 2019 after two engineers involved with the building were suspended.
The first, John Bryson, resigned and agreed to never work again as an engineer in B.C. after an investigation found his structural designs for the building did not meet B.C. building code, specifically when it came to the building’s capacity to handle high winds and major seismic events like an earthquake.
A consent order detailing the case said Bryson used the wrong national building code instead of the code B.C. had in place to design certain parts of the building. Certain mandatory calculations weren’t done at all, investigators said.
Bryson’s partner, John Zickmantel, was suspended for a month for failing to finish his independent review of Bryson’s work.
The owners’ lawsuit this year claimed the developer, contractor, construction manager and lead architect were responsible for catching Bryson’s mistake. It claims they didn’t properly supervise design and construction
The claim also named the city, saying it had a duty to ensure designs were up to code.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
City review of building’s integrity not being released
As for the safety of the building, the original engineering investigation did not comment on how Bryson’s mistakes might have affected the integrity of the building.
The purpose of Engineers and Geoscientists B.C. (EGBC), which regulates engineers in B.C., is only to investigate whether engineers did their jobs properly.
After news of the suspensions broke in 2019, the City of Surrey launched a review of the building. CBC News requested a copy of the findings, but the city said the results are not being made public.
“This matter is before the courts and as a result, the city has no comment,” read an email from a city spokesperson on Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, Bryson’s lawyer has said the building does not present “a public safety concern.”
Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Homeowners Association of B.C., said the fact the building is not up to code combined with the ongoing lawsuit creates the potential for loss for selling owners — even before considering public safety.
“What you’ll find is buyers and mortgage providers … are probably going to step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, we’re not going to proceed on this deal,’” said Gioventu, adding that it is “extremely rare” that a building in B.C. does not meet code.
The owners are suing for breach of contract, breach of warranty and negligence. They claim they’ve lost money because the flawed design has decreased the value of their homes as well as creating higher maintenance fees and property management bills.
The original warranty offered various levels of coverage for construction deficiencies, up to
$2.5 million for a period of up to 10 years.
The lawsuit also said the strata has been paying for several years to assess the building. It claimed the building needs a “substantial rebuild” or retrofit to bring it up to code.
None of the defendants have responded to the lawsuit in court.