Heavy snow loads as experienced in the first few days of 2020 have the possibility to damage buildings. But who is responsible when the property in question is a rental?
That is the question at the centre of a dispute between Gina Gregg, of Malakwa, and her landlord after the carport of the house she is renting collapsed.
Gregg says on the morning of Jan. 23, 2020, the carport collapsed under a heavy load of snow that had buillt up on top.
Gregg’s tenancy agreement states tenants are responsible for clearing snow and keeping walkways clear of ice and snow where it is required. Whether snow clearing applied to the roof, Gregg said, was a point of contention.
Gregg sees similarities between her collapsed carport and a case ruled on by the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB). In the 2018 decision, the RTB arbitrator found removing snow loads that could impact the integrity of the structure to be the responsibility of the landlord.
Pacific Quorum, the property management company that oversees the property Gregg rents, said the owner’s insurance is covering the damage to the carport. Mark Ellery, the vice-president of Pacific Quorum, said warnings about the snow load had been issued following Pacific Quorum employees visits to the site.
The recent heavy snowfall in the Shuswap put plenty of strain on structures where it can accumulate on the roof. Marty Herbert, Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) building and bylaw services team leader, said he knows the damage snow accumulation can do, having seen snow-laden carports flatten cars parked inside and entire buildings collapse under the weight.
While removing snow can be helpful, Herbert said shovelling the roof can be dangerous. He added that preventative maintenance, particularly on older homes, is important to protecting them from snow. He said water ingress due to old flashing or other leaks in the roof can cause deterioration in structural wood, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
According to Herbert, structures generally don’t collapse suddenly and cracks in ceilings and beams, or doors that suddenly become difficult to open can warn of a cave-in to come.