image of a worker measuring tile.

Bridgewater Tile Ltd. v Copa Development Corporation

Case Reporter

In the construction context, the main contractor, the subcontractors, and the homeowners may become confused about the legal relationships amongst themselves, the entitlement to payments, the responsibility for deficiencies, and the timing for filing a builder’s lien. In Bridgewater Tile Ltd. v Copa Development Corporation, (1) the Supreme Court of British Columbia tried to clarify these issues.

Jing Yu and Steven Han (“the owners”) were building a high-end single family home in Vancouver, BC. (2) Ms. Yu retained Copa Development Corporation (“Copa”), (3) a project management company, (4) to coordinate contractors during construction. (5) During construction, tiling services were provided by Bridgewater Tile Ltd. (“Bridgewater”), the plaintiff. (6) Mr. Han accepted Bridgewater’s offer in December 2015. (7) Between February and September of 2016, Bridgewater forwarded seven invoices to the owners, three of which were not fully paid. (8) From September 2016 onward, the owners complained about the quality of the tiling work, including the grout haze on the limestone in the pool area and the kitchen backsplashes. (9) This was consistent with a pattern of the owners of not paying invoices where the contractor’s work was substantially complete, as well as paying many invoices late. (10) In response, Bridgewater planned to replace the affected tiles on kitchen backsplashes that were substandard (11) and also performed the cleaning and polishing process on pool area tiles as remediation of the alleged problem. (12) Shortly after, Bridgewater registered a lien against the house. (13)

Bridgewater sought recovery for the outstanding invoices (14) and argued that it had a valid lien pursuant to the Builders Lien Act. (15) The owners, on the other hand, alleged breach of contract against Copa due to their failure to ensure its subcontractor rectified deficiencies. (16) Additionally, the owners denied their contractual relationship with Bridgewater. (17) This claim, if true, would have meant that Bridgewater would have no contractual claim to payment of the invoices from the owners. (18) Finally, the owners claimed  the builder’s lien registered by Bridgewater was invalid because the limitation period had expired when it was filed. (19)

The Court rejected the owners’ claim about Copa’s breach of contract through deficiencies in the work of Bridgewater as Bridgewater was a sub-trade, but in this case was in a direct contractual relationship with the owner. (20) The Court reasoned that (a) Bridgewater was in a direct contractual relationship formed by Mr. Han accepting Bridgewater’s offer; (21) and (b) Copa was not a party to the contract as such nor had Copa guaranteed the quality of the work performed by Bridgewater in its contract. (22) Thus, Bridgewater was found to be entitled to the payment of the outstanding invoices, subject to small set-offs. (23)

With respect to the builder’s lien registered by Bridgewater, the Court found it valid since the lien was filed within 45 days after December 23, 2016, when Bridgewater was on site at the house for remedial work. (24)

In sum, this case illustrates that when a direct contractual relationship is established between homeowners and a sub-trade contractor, a main contractor may not be responsible for the poor performance of the sub-trade, which may release the main contractor from contractual liability for deficiencies and entitle the sub-trade to payments directly from the homeowners. Moreover, the case reminds builders to confirm the limitation period for registering the lien, which the contractor should keep in mind once work stops prior to full payment.

(1) Bridgewater Tile Ltd. v Copa Development Corporation, 2022 BCSC 310 [Bridgewater].

(2) Ibid at para 20

(3) Ibid, at para 1.

(4) Ibid, at para 3.

(5) Ibid at paras 24.

(6) Ibid at paras. 30-31.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid at paras 48-49.

(9) Ibid at paras 70 & 77.

(10) Ibid at paras 37-43

(11) Ibid at para 100

(12) Ibid at paras 89-98. 

(13) Ibid at para 237.

(14) Ibid at para 217.

(15) Builders Lien Act, SBC, 1997, c 45.

(16) Bridgewater, supra note 1 at para 8.

(17) Ibid at para 217.

(18) Ibid.

(19) Ibid at para 238.

(20) Ibid at para 199.

(21) Ibid at para 218.

(22) Ibid at para 202.  

(23) Ibid at para 235.

(24) Ibid at para 242. See also, Builders Lien Act, supra note 8, ss 20(2)(b) &1(5).

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