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Be Wary of Step Code and Municipal Responsibility

There are many reasons for municipalities and taxpayers to be wary of BC’s Step Code.

The code minimally reduces air changes in a new home (1 or 2 per hour) while renovation of an older home can save 20. Also, the costs are much higher than the govt’s estimates.

Plus, there is no education certification, as required by Built Green.

Municipalities will be imposing a higher code standard based on their assessment of hundreds of builders in their region.

They are not qualified to make such an assessment. BC Housing is the only licensing authority and agency empowered to assess builders.

To adopt this new code policy, Victoria and Saanich are undertaking builder assessments via surveys and workshops – entirely inadequate for such a task.

Legal experts say significant diligence is required when municipalities adopt code policy. This was reinforced in the leaky condo lawsuit against the City of Delta in 2001.

In a case review, law firm Miller Thomson LLP says, “Where a municipality makes a policy decision to adopt the BC Building Code, or enter into the regulation of construction in any way, the municipality must be very careful to properly discharge its obligations.”

Delta’s mayor said the $3 million judgment against the city “put a big hole in the municipality’s budget.”

BC’s recent decision to download building code responsibility onto municipalities ill-equipped to assess builders may have unintended consequences.

Courts have said in the Delta case and others, “It will always be open to a plaintiff to attempt to establish, on a balance of probabilities, that the policy decision was not bona fide or was so irrational or unreasonable as to constitute an improper exercise of governmental discretion.”

Unintended consequences have the potential to put big holes in municipal budgets – paid by taxpayers.

This column appears in Wednesday’s Times Colonist.

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