British Columbia

Vancouver man says he's 'stuck living in an unsafe home' after alleged renovation gone wrong

There’s a dinner table-sized hole in the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room in Wayne Morrissey’s apartment in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood.

Wayne Morrissey says alterations to unit below his condo caused significant damage to his suite

Wayne Morrissey stands in front of a damaged wall in his apartment in Vancouver, B.C. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

There's a dinner table-sized hole in the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room in Wayne Morrissey's apartment in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood.

He worries his cat will climb into the space, which an engineer recently opened as part of a structural assessment, so he covers it with a blanket.

A bigger fear is that his entire kitchen will collapse into the suite below his.

"Every day I wake up and I go, am I going to fall through the floor today?" Morrisey said.

"It's been a real tough time for me."

There are other problems, too, such as growing cracks in the walls and ceiling, a sloping floor and cupboards that look as though they're about to fall off the wall.

'Nobody's helping me'

According to allegations laid out by Morrissey's lawyers, the damage was caused when a load-bearing wall was removed from the unit under Morrisey's suite.

Morrissey says assistance from both the city of Vancouver and the strata council has been hard to come by, even as problems with his unit worsen.

"Nobody's helping me," he said. "I'm stuck living in an unsafe home."

Morrissey says the cracks in his walls and ceiling keep getting worse. (Wayne Morrissey)

When a city inspector visited the unit below Morrissey's several months ago, they determined there was structural damage.

It turns out, the wall was removed without a permit from the city or the knowledge of the strata.

In an emailed statement, the city says the wall was removed without authorization from the municipality.

A city inspector notified the homeowner he was still required to get a permit, even though the wall had already been removed, and would be charged double the regular permit fee as a penalty.

"A follow-up inspection found that structural concerns remain, and the city will be engaging the owner and building strata to address these," it said in the city's email. 

The email from the city noted that if Morrissey had concerns with the unit, he should contact the strata.

Morrissey fears his home is now unsafe to live in but says he has nowhere else to go. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Strata battle

The strata didn't respond to CBC's request for a comment.

Morrissey alleged, however, that once he notified the strata council about the wall, he was told the strata planned to wait for one year to see if the damage got worse.

Morrissey's lawyers sent a strongly-worded letter to the strata council and the property manager who serves as its agent on May 7, 2019. 

"We understand from our client that when the council and property manager were first made aware of the issue, the decision was made to wait for one year before taking any action to 'see if it gets worse," Morrisey's lawyers wrote.

The property manager did not respond to the CBC's request for comment.

Morrissey says it's frustrating that the city and strata seem to be blaming each other.

"That's the key for me is someone take responsibility," he said. "It's not that much to ask."

It's been more than a year since the suite below Morrissey's was altered. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

What's next?

Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C. says it's common for cases like this one to end up in court or the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

"They're messy," he told CBC. "It's often where these cases end up."

Morrissey recently lost his job, so moving isn't a realistic option and he doesn't want to sell because as the damage gets worse, his property value continues to decrease.

He estimates it's dropped by about $150,000 since the support wall in the unit below his was removed.

"It's like nobody really cares," he said. "I'm just so worn down and exhausted by it all."

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