British Columbia

B.C. Liberals pressure province to help condo owners hit by skyrocketing strata insurance

The Official Opposition has proposed measures it says will trigger relief for condo owners facing staggering increases in strata fees stemming from sudden spikes in insurance rates.

Opposition tables proposed legislation, government commits to 'take a look' at the ideas

BC Liberal MLA Todd Stone outlines proposed legislation he says would help address the strata insurance crisis that's hit hundreds of thousands of condo-owners province-wide. (Tanya Fletcher / CBC)

The B.C. Liberals want to target the growing problem of soaring strata insurance with proposed new legislation.

The opposition housing critic has put forward a private members bill at the B.C. Legislature outlining measures the party claims would trigger relief for condo owners hit with a sudden spike in strata costs.

"Over the past few months an increasing number of strata corporations in B.C. — particularly those in Metro Vancouver — have seen their insurance costs go through the roof, with skyrocketing increases to premiums, deductibles and monthly fees," said MLA Todd Stone.

It is imperative that we take action to best mitigate the impacts of this growing crisis before it gets any worse.- MLA Todd Stone, opposition housing critic

"These costs are then downloaded onto residents, many of whom are now paying thousands of dollars more a year in fees... It is imperative that we take action to best mitigate the impacts of this growing crisis before it gets any worse."

Stone outlined a number of examples from his own riding of Kamloops-South Thompson where some strata premiums shot up 400 per cent in one year. The increases are linked to global risk factors such as wildfires and floods.

He tabled the Strata Property Amendment Act, which would include the following legislative changes:

  • Add a new "standard unit" definition to better clarify the responsibilities of strata building insurers versus individual unit owners.
  • Require a strata corporation to provide a copy of proof of insurance so that buyers know the terms, premiums, amounts of deductible and coverage limits.
  • Property and insurance renewal terms be provided at least 30 days in advance to give strata corporations more notice of any impending increases.
  • Require unit owners to buy liability insurance to make sure individuals are able to cover the costs of a major water leak, for example, since strata insurance only covers common areas.

Stone is also calling on the government to implement a water damage prevention program to provide financial incentives for preventative maintenance in strata buildings. 

'We will review the bill': NDP

The provincial government agreed to consider the suggestions as holds talks including with strata associations, the insurance industry and the B.C. Financial Services Authority.

"I'm happy to take a look at [the bill] to see if there are ideas we can incorporate into those discussions we're having," said Finance Minister Carole James during Question Period when Stone asked how the NDP plans to respond.

She said again, as she has many times before, that the issue is not exclusive to B.C. and is happening in other provinces, too.

"While these price increases are driven by dynamics in the private insurance industry, we welcome any proposals that might help make life more affordable," James later responded in a statement.

"On first reading, it isn't clear how the Opposition's proposals would bring down costs in the near term for people, but we will continue to review the bill," she said.

Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C., supports the proposed amendments, saying it will "help raise the profile on the seriousness of this issue."

If you are being affected by a rise in strata insurance rates, CBC would like to hear your story. Please email impact@cbc.ca

About the Author

Provincial Affairs Reporter covering the B.C. Legislature. Anything political: tanya.fletcher@cbc.ca

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