Strata insurance rate increase and minimizing risk for all now go hand in hand
It’s a sobering reality for many condo and townhome owners; right now, they could be one insurance claim away from a serious financial crisis. That was probably the last thing on their mind right now.
Strata home ownership
What attracted the over one million strata title holders in British Columbia to the condominium lifestyle varies: The allure of a more secure, less maintenance, carefree way of life, and obviously a more affordable option over a single family home, especially in BC’s Metro Vancouver. Some are retirees that down-sized from empty nests, others are young and managed to break into the real estate market for the first time. The young and the seasoned, both living beside units that investors bought as sources of income. The routes traveled to achieve strata ownership in the soaring high rises, cozy low-rises and the tidy rows of townhouses are all different, yet with strata insurance rates dramatically increasing, BC condo and townhome owners all find themselves in the same boat in terms of minimizing the risk of an insurance claim.
Minimize the potential for damage
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure needs to be at the front of strata owners’ minds. What can the owners do to minimize the potential for damage to the common areas of the property as well as their own personal property? And if an incident occurs, who will be accountable? At the top of an owners “to do” list: talk to your Reliance insurance advisor and get educated. We eat, sleep and dream risk assessment. We have a wealth of knowledge including the before’s, the during’s and the afters of past insurance claims. What we learn from the mistakes and miscalculations of others, we are more than happy to share with you.
Water damage creates the highest insurance claims in strata complexes
Strata title owners can create a checklist of preventative maintenance tasks they will need to accomplish to ensure they’ve done everything in their power to minimize the potential for catastrophe. A great place to begin is with water.
Water, a simple molecule that animals and humans cannot live without. Some call it the nectar of the Gods. But, after a pipe burst or a busted sprinkler head, the innocent hydrogen and oxygen molecule will be called every bad name in the book. In the wake of the increased strata insurance rates, consider doing the following:
- Visually inspect your unit’s plumbing.
- Upgrade rubber hoses to braided hoses.
- Address any leaks or potential for leaks.
- Turn off water mains when on absent from the resident for more than a few days.
- Don’t run the washer or dishwasher when out of the home.
Rarely are condo flood waters limited just to the owners unit. Water will flow into common property and other units as well. Condo owners with family, roommates or tenants should also instruct them on what can and cannot be flushed down a toilet or rinsed down a drain. This is not the time for amateur plumbing; condo and townhome owners are strongly encouraged to enlist the services of a reputable, insured professional plumbing company.
Enlisting a qualified, insured professional also applies to:
- Fire safety equipment inspection.
- Electrical system inspection.
- Any renovation project, big or small.
Also prudent would be to check in with elderly family members or neighbours that are condo or townhome owners. They may need some assistance navigating both their current insurance coverage and arranging inspections of their homes for any potential risks. Be sure to get in touch with their insurance broker first and foremost.
It’s not always a mistake or an accident that causes a damaging flood. Vandalism can also be to blame. In late March, 2019, the residents of 388 Kaslo Street in East Vancouver had their lives turned upside after a vandal(s) opened a third floor standpipe (water supply for firefighters) allowing water to flow down into multiple condos and retail units below. Condo and townhome residents also have to be aware of the potential risk of vandals. If you see something, say something.
Check your checklist for preventative maintenance
It is good practice to do routine checks on your property:
- Check smoke detectors.
- Turn down water heater when possible.
- Check sump pump if you have one.
- Turn back thermostat on a regular basis.
- Unplug TVs, desktop computers/peripherals and any small appliances when not in regular use.
If you will be absent from your residence:
- Shut off main water.
- Use a water detection sensor.
- Have someone check your residence on a regular basis.
- Save posting on social media until you return.
Many insurance policies require you to have your property or residence checked on a regular basis if you will be absent and it is a great way to help minimize risk of catastrophe.
On a global scale, insurance companies surely haven’t reached the pinnacle of claim pay-outs: the mass destruction of personal and commercial property during extreme fire and weather events don’t appear to be slowing anytime soon.
If anything, this complicated and challenging strata insurance rate increase situation should be bringing strata owners together, inspiring a stronger sense of community, with each and every strata council meeting. It’s a time to adopt a team mentality and work with each other, instead of against each other for the greater good.
- Get tips, info and more from Reliance Insurance on condo and town home insurance
- The Government of British Columbia is here to help anyone needing more information on Strata and Home Owner Associations in British Columbia.
- The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is also ready to help current and new owners understand all things insurance right now. Visit the IBC’s Insurance 101 section of their website
- Read the latest version of the BC Strata Property Act
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