Mention the word “Kitec” to condo managers and unit owners and you will likely be greeted with a look of panic. The various concerns regarding Kitec have been well covered in the condominium industry.
Kitec plumbing consists of flexible aluminum pipe between an inner and outer layer of plastic pipe (PEX pipe) with brass fittings. Marketed as a cheaper and easy-to-install alternative to copper piping, Kitec was sold between 1995 and 2007 for potable water, in-floor, and hot-water baseboard heating systems. It was commonly used in many construction projects between 1995 and 2007 because of its low cost and ease of installation.
What is of utmost importance for condominium corporations is that once Kitec is discovered guidance should be sought in order to understand what the legal obligations are of the condominium corporation and those of the unit owners. Set out below are a number of useful tips for condo corporations:
- As soon as Kitec is suspected, retain an engineering firm that is experienced with Kitec to carry out an inspection and provide a professional opinion with respect to the presence of Kitec within units and common elements, the condition of the Kitec, and recommended course of action.
- Read up on Kitec, including the class action. http://kitecsettlement.com is a helpful resource.
- Don’t sit on “bad” news. Seek clarification from the engineer as to the findings and request further details as soon as possible so that a decision can be made by the board as to what steps are required.
- Communicate with unit owners early and often. Should the condominium corporation determine that the Kitec needs to be removed, it is an expensive, protracted and potentially logistically challenging process. The sooner and more frequent the communications, the greater the likelihood of a smoother process. In addition to letters, newsletters, and bulletin boards, town-hall meetings/information sessions are very helpful.
- If the board decides to mandate the replacement of the Kitec, the scope of the engineer’s role going forward should be clearly set out.
- Legal counsel should review the tender documents prior to them being issued. For many condominiums, the replacement of Kitec in units and/or common elements is one of the largest contracts that the condominium corporation enters into. Having legal counsel review legal documents after the board has already selected one of the bids is problematic.
- If the board decides to mandate replacement and a contract is entered into with the successful bidder, a further information meeting should be scheduled in a timely manner. The successful bidder should prepare an informative presentation and be prepared to answer residents’ questions at the meeting.
- Ensure that sufficient timing is allotted for securing the required building permits. Communicate with the contractor, the consultant and owners regularly and often with respect to scheduling and issues.
- The Kitec replacement costs borne by unit owners are usually burdensome and unplanned. The presence of Kitec is not due to the actions of the unit owners. This reality should always be kept in mind by the board, property management and agents of the condominium.
While the discovery and potential replacement of Kitec is not on any condominium’s wish list, the sense of community, communication, and ownership that can be generated from a well-organized replacement project may empower owners, board members and management.