Insurance isn’t a sexy topic, but if you own a condo, taking a few minutes to learn how strata insurance works may be the best investment you make this year.

In my law practice, I receive calls every week from condo owners facing legal action and unexpected bills from their strata corporations ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 or more.

The one thing these owners have in common? They didn’t purchase homeowners insurance – or worse, they bought the wrong insurance and thought they were covered.

The Strata Corporation’s Obligations

Under the Strata Property Act, SBC 1998, c.43 every strata corporation must obtain insurance. This insurance must cover buildings, common property and common assets as well as original fixtures installed by the developer in every strata lot.

Responsibility to Repair

Understanding the repair and maintenance obligations of individual owners in your strata corporation is critically important. This is because you may be liable to pay your strata corporation’s insurance deductible if the strata corporation’s insurance claim is related to damage flowing from property that you are responsible to maintain and repair. These obligations are generally set out in the Strata Property Act and your own strata corporation bylaws.

Strata corporations are responsible for the maintenance and repair of common property and common assets. Often, they are also responsible for any significant maintenance or repair of limited common property such as balconies. Owners are usually responsible their strata lots, unless the strata corporation has taken responsibility under the bylaws.

Section 158(2) of the Strata Property Act allows strata corporations to sue owners to recover insurance deductibles where the owner “is responsible for the loss or damage that gave rise to the claim.”

The courts have interpreted legal responsibility under section 158(2) of the Strata Property Act to mean the responsibility to repair and maintain. In Mari vs. The Owners, Strata Plan LMS 2835, 2007 BCSC 740, the British Columbia Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision finding that “responsible for the loss or damage” under the Strata Property Act didn’t require any negligence on the part of an owner.

Hidden Danger of Expensive Deductibles

The Strata Property Act sets a minimum level of coverage for all strata corporations. It doesn’t establish a maximum deductible. While many strata corporations have insurance deductibles in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 for common claims such as water damage, some with a history of claims or a desire to keep costs down have chosen policies with deductibles of $50,000 or more.

Based on section 158 of the Strata Property Act and recent court decisions, many strata corporations now send owners a bill for the cost of the insurance deductible whenever a claim arises for damage in, or from, a strata lot.

How Can Owners Protect Themselves?

Encourage your strata corporation to purchase an insurance policy with low deductibles. In addition to protecting all owners from unexpected loss, individual owners may be able to save money on their personal insurance policies where the strata corporation has invested in a healthy level of coverage.

When choosing your personal insurance policy, remember that strata corporation insurance does not protect you against damage to your own personal property or any renovations or improvements you have made to your strata lot. You may also be on the hook if an accident occurs in your strata lot that causes damage to other units.  Water and gravity often combine to cause significant damage in condominiums.

I always recommend that owners provide a copy of their strata corporation insurance policy to their insurance broker so that they can obtain a policy that fills in any gaps. You can find a summary of your strata corporation’s insurance coverage in your Annual General Meeting documents.

The Strata Property Act places strict limits a strata corporation’s ability to shift shared expenses to individual owners and while section 158 allows a strata corporation to sue an owner, it doesn’t give a strata corporation the right to act as judge and jury.

Finally, always remember that this article and the magic of Google can’t replace specific qualified legal advice. If you experience an accident or claim related to your strata property, be sure to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable strata lawyer.

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Title Insurance: What every homeowner needs to know


You combed through websites, apps, newspapers and seen dozens of places until you finally found the perfect house!Your biggest achievement, your biggest asset – how do you keep it safe?Before you purchased your home, the property may have changed hands several times. Even with a new build, somewhere along the way there may have been an error made such as an incorrect survey, a non-existent permit or title-related issues that can affect your ability to sell, mortgage, or lease your property in the future. These are the types of things that a title insurance policy can protect you against.


What exactly is title insurance?

 

Title insurance is a unique form of insurance. Unlike home insurance where you are insuring the structure and contents, title insurance protects you, the homeowner, against actual loss as a result of challenges to the title (ownership) and other defects relating to your property. Plus, remedying the issues or legally defending your ownership can be very costly and stressful.


How much does a policy cost?

 

For a low one-time premium, you can ensure that you have the protection you need for as long as you own your home. The actual cost of a homeowner policy is based on your property value and varies by province. Your lawyer can provide you with a quote within minutes.


What does title insurance cover?

 

A typical title insurance policy covers common issues (known and unknown) that may have happened both before and after you’ve purchased your home. This is sometimes referred to as pre- and post-policy because the day you take ownership of your home is generally also the effective date of the policy.The main areas of coverage in the Homeowner Policy are:

·         Fraud — a person fraudulently transfers your property without your knowledge or consent.

·         Forgery — someone forges your signature on a registered document, which enables them to sell or mortgage your property.

·         Encroachments — if a structure built by a previous owner sits outside the property’s boundaries or if a neighbour builds a structure that is partially on your property after you purchase your policy.

·         Lack of building permits — if a previous owner completed work on your property without the required building permits, such as an addition or improvement, you could be forced by your municipality to remove or remedy the structure.

·         Duty to defend — if you have to protect and restore your title as a result of a covered title risk, FCT will pay for the legal fees and costs associated with it.

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No matter how much you love your current property, you may be dreaming

of the day you can buy up into a better home in a better neighbourhood.

Is that day today, or, is it a few years down the road?

 

Here’s a quick way to make that assessment.

 

First, make a list of all the practical reasons why it might be time to move

up. Those reasons might include features such as: more bedrooms,

proximity to work and school, a larger backyard with trees, nearby parks and

walking paths and better access to things you enjoy like theatre.

 

Next, make a list of the emotional reasons for making such a move. Those

reasons might include memorable get-togethers with friends on a more

spacious deck, an easier and less stressful commute to work, more family

time with the kids and enjoyable Saturday golf at a nearby course.

 

Finally, take a financial snapshot to determine if you can afford to move up.

You’ll need to get a good idea of what your current property will sell for in

today’s market, average price of homes in your desired neighbourhood, and

how much mortgage you’ll need.

 

Once you have all that down on paper, you’ll have a clear picture of your

readiness. If the practical and emotional reasons for buying up are

compelling, and you can afford to make the move, then you have your

answer.

 

The time is now!

 

By the way, if you need help in making this determination – especially

figuring out what your home will likely sell for, call today.

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Buying Your Dream Home in a Hot Market

 

 Imagine finding the perfect home, only to discover there is serious interest from at least a dozen other buyers. It’s like scrambling for the last piece of cake at a buffet!

 

 Fortunately, there are things you can do to help get the home you want, even in a highly competitive market. Here are just a few ideas: 

 

• Only view a few ideal properties at a time. If you see too many, and thus spread yourself too thin, you risk homes slipping through your fingers. 

 

• Be realistic about price. Focus on finding a great home that you can afford, rather than trying to find a bargain.

 

 • Consider homes that need some work. They get less interest than perfectly staged properties, yet can turn out to be a dream home. 

 

• Be prepared to make an offer with as few conditions as possible. An offer conditional on passing inspection is usually fine, but in a competitive situation, offers with other conditions will likely be turned down flat.

 

 • Make your decisions quickly. If there are likely to be other interested buyers, you want to get your offer in early. 

 

• Make the right offer. To win the deal, you want your offer to be as enticing as possible to the seller — especially when it comes to price. 

 

Yes, it can be tough finding an ideal home in a hot market, but I can help. Give me a call and I’ll show you how.

 

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