Whether an existing homeowner or someone looking to get into the market, you may not have heard of “Kitec”, which is a product sold between 1995 and 2007. It was used in new home constructions as a piping system for carrying water throughout the house, and for supplying water to radiant heating systems for both the home itself and for flooring and heated towel racks. The outside is prominently stamped with “Kitec” and is made of plastic (cross-lined polyethylene or PEX), while the inside is lined with aluminium. The pipe is usually orange in colour, but in some cases may be blue, gray or white.
Some homes that contain Kitec have reportedly been riddled with problems: Mainly the deterioration of the fittings, as well as the disintegration of the pipes themselves in some cases. In the resale market it appears that – as with homes containing UFFI in years past – there is now a stigma associated with homes containing Kitec piping. To amplify the problem, some insurance companies are now refusing to provide insurance, based on their own liability risk assessments, which makes these properties even less attractive.
Here are some tips on what to do if you own, or suspect you own, a property with Kitec installed:
1) How do I find out if my home has Kitec pipes?
If you have a home with radiant heading and a water-heating system that was installed between 1995 and 2007, it is worthwhile to have a plumber come in to do an inspection to determine whether Kitec was used in the installation, and if so, whether there has been any deterioration or damage.
If it turns out that Kitec has been used in your home, then the best thing to do is to have it immediately replaced. With that said, the decision may be contingent on various things, including the plumber’s assessment of any damage versus the estimated replacement cost, and whether you are planning to sell the home in the future.
2) What if I do decide to sell my home?
If your home contains Kitec and you decide to sell without replacing it first, then here is what you should know:
- The existence of the Kitec should definitely be disclosed, either on a Seller Property Information Sheet (if you and your real estate agent are using one), as part of the general disclosure obligation on the part of sellers that extends to any potential buyers.
- While it may be tempting to keep quiet and rely on the concept of “buyer beware”, the decision to provide up-front disclosure can provide the following legal advantages:
- It prevents the successful buyer from coming back to assert a legal claim for damages against you, should the previously-undiscovered Kitec come to light post-closing, after costly repairs or replacement are needed.
- It also eliminates any accusation against you that you have fraudulently misrepresented the condition the property, or have actively concealed the presence of Kitec; such allegations can be actionable in law and result in costly litigation. (And if the allegations are proven true, you can be liable to the buyer in damages, including punitive damages, as well as legal costs).
- If you decide not to replace the Kitec before listing it for sale, it may nonetheless be worthwhile to have a reliable quote for its replacement handy. This way you can use the information as a “bargaining chip” in the price negotiations with the buyer, when it undoubtedly comes up in response to your disclosure, or on his or her own initiative.
Even if you are briefly tempted not to disclose the existence of unremedied Kitec, any prudent potential buyer will assuredly hire a home inspector, who is likely to point out its presence in any case. This will put you back where you started, in terms of having to replace or account for the Kitec in your home, but with the added element of potential mistrust on the buyer’s part, when it comes time to negotiate a favourable deal.
Incidentally, the news is not all bad for property-owners with Kitec piping systems in place: there is a class action lawsuit in Canada that has resulted in opportunities for financial settlement to account for damages resulting from the use of Kitec in homes. If you think you may be eligible, contact a lawyer and see www.kitecsettlement.com for more information.