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B.C. contractor wins court case even though fireplace not ‘up to code’

Tribunal rules homeowner was effectively the general contractor and was made aware of the risk
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A Victoria contractor says he was just following his client’s instructions. (Pexels photo)

A B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal case in which a renovated fireplace in Victoria was found to not meet B.C. Building Code requirements is a cautionary tale about how to structure renovation agreements when hiring someone.

Shelley Cushnie took David Vinnels, operating as Vinnels Property Rentals, to the CRT asking for more than $4,700. Cushnie said she had to hire a third party to rebuild a fireplace renovated by Vinnels so it would be “in compliance with the Code,” said the CRT decision. Cushnie had hired Vinnels for several projects as part of her house renovation, including a new fireplace.

But Vinnels told the CRT, according to the decision, that he was following Cushnie’s instructions and that she was the general contractor for the project.

“Mr. Vinnels says they renovated the fireplace according to Ms. Cushnie’s instructions,” said the CRT decision. “They say Ms. Cushnie served as the general contractor and was responsible for ensuring that her instructions complied with the Code. Mr. Vinnels also says they should not have to pay any damages as they were not given the opportunity to correct any deficiencies in their work.”

Cushnie told the CRT that Vinnels was actually the general contractor and should be responsible for hiring a sub-contractor, but the CRT disagreed.

The CRT sided with Vinnels and dismissed the claim, saying Vinnels met his obligations to the client and made her aware he didn’t know the code requirements for this kind of project.

“Mr. Vinnels says when the parties agreed to change the scope of work to include the build out, they specifically told Ms. Cushnie they were neither a mason nor a gas fitter and they did not know the Code requirements for the build out of the fireplace,” said the CRT decision.

“Mr. Vinnels said Ms. Cushnie would need to contact someone else to determine whether the design was suitable for a fireplace insert. Finally, Mr. Vinnels says Ms. Cushnie told them to proceed despite not knowing the Code’s requirements. So, the question is whether Ms. Cushnie agreed to the fireplace renovation on these alleged terms.”

The CRT said the work by Vinnels was not “deficient.”

“The challenge for Ms. Cushnie is that I have already found Mr. Vinnels told her they were not aware of the Code requirements for fireplaces, and Ms. Cushnie instructed Mr. Vinnels to proceed with the fireplace renovation anyways. So, I find the fireplace renovation is not deficient simply because it did not meet the Code,” the CRT said.

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Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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