B.C.’s housing minister says the province is doing its best to deal with an international problem, as she continues to be peppered with horror stories of huge increases in condominium insurance.
Opposition MLAs are highlighting the crisis of some strata property owners, facing double or triple rate increases, huge jumps in deductible amounts and in some cases refusal to insure at all. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson says a bill before the B.C. legislature tightens rules for depreciation reports and allows the use of reserve funds to pay skyrocketing insurance costs.
The impact of construction and maintenance issues on strata insurance was highlighted in a report June 16 by the newly established B.C. Financial Services Authority. But examples from B.C. tell a different story, of new buildings with no water or other damage claim history facing huge increases.
Langley MLA Mary Polak said she can identify “row upon row of brand-new townhomes” that are facing huge increases. “This isn’t about depreciation reports,” Polak told the legislature July 7. “It’s not about maintenance.”
One of those is the Prestwick townhouse complex in Langley, where the strata president was informed three days before the insurance came due that the premium was rising from $88,000 to $250,000. The complex is two years old and has no insurance claims, the president told the Langley Advance Times.
Robinson said the problem arose last fall and the government is moving as quickly as possible. But the COVID-19 pandemic has added enormous costs to the provincial budget, leaving few options to provide the immediate relief that opposition MLAs are calling for.
Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Marvin Hunt described a constituent named Diana, faced with a 280 per cent jump in premiums that forced the strata to dip into their capital reserve funds to pay for it.
“But that’s not any kind of a solution,” Hunt said. “As Diana says, ‘we can’t do that every year. We’ll run out of our funds’.”
Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong said there are thousands of property owners across the province who face the same situation, with monthly strata fees growing larger than mortgage payments. Using capital reserves to cover insurance depletes the savings accumulated to keep up with necessary maintenance like replacing roofs, de Jong said.