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Home COFSAB Forum Condo Owners Forum Q&A Owner Requesting Walk-In Tub Improvement/Betterment Approval

  • Owner Requesting Walk-In Tub Improvement/Betterment Approval

    Posted by Cheryl Stubbings on January 17, 2024 at 5:55 pm

    Our condo building is a 3-story wood-frame building. An owner on the 3rd floor is requesting Board approval to have a walk-in tub installed.

    Looking for opinions/insights into this. I think we need to defer our decision until we can further research.

    Perhaps there’s an increased risk of structural damage from the weight (regular tub holds 30-60 gallons of water; walk-in tub holds 50-80 gallons of water). Minimally, we would have to find out what the maximum load is. And perhaps there’s a flood risk as well should there be a failure.

    For insurance purposes, would this type of upgrade need to be reported to our insurer and if so, could the increased cost be passed on to the owner?

    What about the extra water consumption that all owners in the building will have to pay for. Guessing it could be close to an extra 20-30 gallons of water per bath. Would it be reasonable to pass this cost on to the owner, or would it be impossible to quantify?

    Does anybody have any insight or experience with this kind of a request?

    Terry Gibson replied 1 month ago 4 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
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  • Dana Bouwman

    January 17, 2024 at 8:48 pm

    Honestly, I would assume that someone getting a walk-in tub likely has mobility issues. so I personally wouldn’t question approving this because of human rights legislation.

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  • Terry Gibson

    January 18, 2024 at 8:56 am

    Very interesting questions you pose!

    I agreee with Dana: boards must do their best to accommodate people with special needs.

    I would put the onus on the owner to provide details on the weight AND whether the structure can accommodate that.

    Re insurance: I would consult with your broker.

    Water consumption: everyone in a condo consumes different volumes of water, heat etc. My suggestion is that you have to accept that this owner may use more hot water. Recognize they may bath more or less than others. It comes to giving and taking. All owners are different. Just something we have to accept as condo owners. (example some people keep their suites at 18C, others at 23C. Impossible to quantify. Impossible to manage.

    Thanks for using the FORUM Cheryl!

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  • Cheryl Stubbings

    January 18, 2024 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you Dana and Terry for sharing your thoughts – will consider your suggestions. FYI, here’s our PM’s response:

    The corporation could request from the owner to have proper plans done and an engineering review completed regarding the load bearing capabilities of the building.

    I would also suggest that the corporation enter into an Indemnity agreement / Hold harmless agreement with the owner which would be registered on title. The owner would be responsible for all related legal and registration costs.

    The improvement would have to be reported to the insurance company, but with the indemnity agreement in place premiums should not be affected as the liability is transferred to the owner in case of any failure or damage.

    Regarding the added water cost the only way this could be passed on the owner is to have a separate meter installed for the unit specifically. Otherwise there would be no way to monitor the added water cost.

    A very rough estimation could be done on a monthly basis by carefully reviewing the corporation’s water bill and identifying variances in usage. Naturally this could be very easily argued by the owner that not all additional water use is related to their tub. In essence this would be very hard to enforce.

    This is on a personal note:

    Few years back I had looked into the same for my wife. She has some mobility issues and a walk-tub seemed like a good idea. Upon learning that you have to enter the tub, close the door and wait for it fill up and also wait until it fully drains before you can open the door, it was determined that it is very uncomfortable to wait all this time while sitting in the tub.

    A walk in shower with built in seating solved the same problem without the discomfort of waiting and getting chilled.

    In any case should the board agree I could draft communication to the owner advising them that:

    1. Detailed plans are needed for the upgrade, (tub
      make and model, installer qualifications complete with WCB and Liability
      insurance, timeframes for installation, construction plans done and
      reviewed by an engineer)
    2. Indemnity agreement is also needed to be put in
      place as a condition of approval at the owners expense
    3. She would also have to show that insurance
      coverage on their personal policy is added.

    Only with all this in place would the board consider approving the application.”

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  • Mark Hambridge

    January 26, 2024 at 12:52 pm

    We installed a walk-in tub in our 10th-floor apartment in a concrete and steel structure about 10 years ago. The board at that time required no specific elements as discussed in previous replies. That board was one of the reasons a few of us started COFSAB – I’ll write no more on that!

    My wife uses the tub about once a week with the help of a home care assistant. Water usage is probably far less than an able person uses with a daily shower. The likelihood of an accident is minimal, and as someone else pointed out, you have to be IN the tub to close the door and turn on the water. Ours is a short-length, sitting-up style tub, so uses less water than a standard tub. Using the hand shower is a possible source of ‘spillage’ but not with careful use. Our tub is bordered by tile and sealed against the walls on two sides, so the likelihood of spillage is minimised.

    The biggest issue we have found (the hard way!) is that the valve mechanism which is a combined diverter of hot and cold water to the tub or hand shower is a sealed and difficult-to-access unit. Ours suffered from corrosion and failed; a replacement had to be ordered from the supplier in the USA, taking about three weeks. The workers who installed the tub didn’t install external shut-off valves to the tub, common with many bath installations. To shut off the water to the bathtub required shutting off the main water supply to the whole unit.

    Regardless of building or plumbing code requirements, a ‘best practice’ would be to install easily accessible shut-offs specific to the new tub.

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  • Mark Hambridge

    January 26, 2024 at 1:07 pm

    Cheryl Stubbings’ PM wrote:

    “Few years back I had looked into the same for my wife. She has some
    mobility issues and a walk-tub seemed like a good idea. Upon learning
    that you have to enter the tub, close the door and wait for it fill up
    and also wait until it fully drains before you can open the door, it was
    determined that it is very uncomfortable to wait all this time while
    sitting in the tub.”

    The water supply in our building is powered by strong pumps, even to the 10th floor, and the supply in the tub itself is enlarged to accommodate the time-to-fill concern. Similarly, the drain is oversized compared with an ‘ordinary’ bathtub, so drain time is minimised.

    We recognised the ‘getting cold while waiting to fill and drain’ issue and helped it by ensuring there was a pot light in the ceiling over the tub which has a halogen (thus heating) bulb to light the tub. I looked for a specific heat lamp bulb, without success. Be aware that halogen bulbs burn out sooner than LED lamps, so ease of replacement is important (standing on the seat in the tub…).

    As to comfort – sitting on cold wet fibreglass is not nice but a perforated shower floor mat, cut to size and shape, resolved the issue while letting the water drain effectively.

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  • Cheryl Stubbings

    January 27, 2024 at 7:44 am

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience, Mark. Your suggestion of ensuring that external and easily accessible shut-off valves are installed is a good one!

    As the Board continued our due diligence research, we became aware of a condo building’s past walk-in tub disaster due to “user error”. Long story short, the user opened the door before the tub was fully drained causing an enormous amount of damage for all floors below … nightmare for all involved to say the least!

    So, we do need to be mindful of the Owner’s need, but we must also consider the potential negative impact on the building structure itself and on other Owners should a failure occur (whatever the reason). Even if installed following building/plumbing codes and with an engineering stamp of approval, we must also recognize the potential for damages caused by user error or equipment failure.

    The Board ultimately decided to go with our PM’s recommendations, and on behalf of the Board, the PM sent the Owner the following:

    Your request has been received and reviewed by the Board. Before any further consideration is given or approval is granted, the following information will need to be submitted:

    1. Detailed plans for the walk-in tub you intend to install – size and dimensions will have to be included, as well as a drawing prepared by an engineer for the installation. Timeframes for the installation, construction plans and renovation details must also be included.
    2. Along with the plans a qualified engineer’s review and letter of opinion stating how the added weight of the walk-in tub (in a filled state) will affect the building structure.
    3. A WCB clearance certificate and Liability Insurance Certificate for the contractors who will be doing the work in the bathroom.
    4. Prior to the installation taking place, you will need to sign an Indemnity agreement / hold harmless agreement with the corporation. This will essentially establish that you will solely be responsible for any damage if any should ever occur due to the walk-in tub. For example, if the tub should ever flood the bathroom and damage any other units or common elements. You will also have to absorb the legal cost in relation to the preparation of the indemnity agreement. Legal counsel for the corporation will prepare the agreement and will register this on title for you unit. The cost of their services will be back charged to you.
    5. You will also have to provide proof that you have reported the walk-in tub installation to your insurance company and coverage has been extended to include the walk-in tub any and potential damage is fully covered by you policy.

    Only with all of the above criteria being met will the Board give further consideration to approving your request.”

    We await the Owner’s response.

    Please spread the word!
  • Terry Gibson

    January 29, 2024 at 11:23 am

    Good discussion Mark and Cheryl!

    Please spread the word!

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