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Condominium Insurance Insights

What is condominium insurance? 

As a condominium unit owner, you have title to your own unit, as well as a share in common (and or managed) property such as the lobby, hallways, parking garage and other amenities. A bare land condominium may have fewer common areas, typically just streets or roadways but can also include managed property such as the roof, exterior siding, and sewer lines. It is important to note that the definition of what is “owned” by the unit owner depends on the condominium and typically outlined in the bylaws and on the condominium plan. 

If you have purchased a condominium unit, the insurance policy you bought might have seemed similar to something like the coverage you might have gotten with a Tenant insurance policy (i.e. Personal contents and liability).    

When it comes to buying condominium owner coverage, it is important to note that coverage is available under two separate and distinct policies: one for the corporation, and one for the unit owner. 

 Having two insurance policies can be confusing but while the two policies are separate in their coverages and wordings, in combination, they may provide all risk coverage for your unit and contents.

Detailed information about what is covered is specific to each Corporation and typically  defined in the Condominium Bylaws.  Your Insurance Broker is the expert with respect  to your personal coverage. Call them and discuss your concerns to make sure you get  the best possible coverage for your protection. 

Tip: Provide your condominium corporation’s insurance policy plus your bylaws to your insurance broker. This helps to make sure you have the proper coverage in place. 

Why do I have to buy condominium unit owners insurance? 

 The Condominium Property Act specifies that condominium corporations are responsible to insure Corporation owned property, and unit owners are responsible to insure their Units and personal property.   

 In addition to the Corporation’s policy, it is especially important that you also have a Condominium Unit Owners Policy in place for your protection. Remember: The Corporation’s policy does not cover your personal contents, liability or in many cases, improvements to your unit. 

 How does this insurance benefit me? 

 Like homeowner’s insurance, a condominium owner’s policy would cover the insured’s personal property and contents, third party liability, and additional living expenses in the event something happens (like a fire or burst water pipe) that prevents them from staying in their home.  

 In addition, condominium owner insurance also protects the unit’s improvements and betterments, deductible costs, the unit itself or a loss assessment on the building should the corporation have no insurance or have inadequate insurance for which that the owner’s policy would normally cover. 

 What is Loss Assessment Coverage? 

 Loss assessment coverage is unique to condominium insurance. Since unit owners share responsibility for common property or elements, this coverage pays your share (up to a stated limit) for a major property or liability loss on common property.  

 Important insurance changes impacting deductibles and loss assessment coverage 

 Effective January 1, 2020, the Condominium Corporation has the power to seek recovery from any Owner where damage has originated from the owner’s unit for the deductible up to a maximum of $50,000 on an insurance claim.  This “absolute liability” means that regardless of whether there was proven negligence or not, the Corporation can hold the Owner liable.  This clause is part of the Condominium Regulations (Section 62.4). 

 For example: 

 If the Corporation’s deductible is $15,000, and there is damage that originates from an owner’s unit, in the amount of $20,000, the Condominium Board has the authority to recover $15,000 from the Owner. 

 Alternatively, if the Board has a $15,000 deductible, but the damages are only $5,000, the Board only has the authority to recover $5,000. 

 In the same regard, if the Corporation has a deductible that is over $50,000 and damages exceed the deductible, the maximum the Board can recover is $50,000. 

 What steps can condominium unit owners take to protect themselves and have the proper condominium unit insurance policy? 

  1. Ask your Condominium Board or Property Manager for a copy of the Corporation’s Insurance  Certificate 
  2. Contact a personal Insurance Broker and provide them with a copy of the corporation’s certificate along with a copy of your condominium bylaws
  3. Confirm that their Unit Owner policy has deductible or loss assessment coverage and how much  they are covered for in the event they are obligated to pay. 
  4. Confirm the amount of the deductible for the Condominium Corporation’s insurance policy(on the corporation’s insurance. 
  5. Confirm that the value of deductible coverage in their Unit Owner policy is at least equivalent to  the value of the Condominium Corporation’s deductible; and 
  6. Pay attention to any notice from the Corporation which changes or increases the amount of the Corporation’s deductible and increase their coverage (to a maximum of $50,000), as required. 
  7. Get written confirmation from your insurance provider that they have deductible coverage for the Corporation’s deductible.
  8. Keep a copy of your policy with your important documents and review coverages annually on receipt of your corporation’s insurance renewal for any changes or coverage updates. 

 Note: Deductible coverage is different from special assessment coverage.  

With close to 50 years of property management experience, Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. is a licensed property management brokerage and trusted to respond with experience and responsive systems. Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. offers a wide range of condominium property management services.  Our primary goal is to offer peace of mind and help condominium boards realize the long-term profitability, a solid governance approach and assist to minimize risk.  Contact us today to find out more about how our team at Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. can help by calling 403-237-8600. 

 


Property Insurance Market Update

The shift in the insurance market that started in 2018 continues to impact condominium corporations and multi-family rental properties across Canada.  Unfortunately, the hardening of the insurance market and aggressive changes by insurance companies continued into 2021 with Covid-19 hitting the insurance industry. 

Like many markets, the insurance market is cyclical.  In the recent past, benefits from a softer market were enjoyed by many in the property management industry. However, the long-term results of rising claims and reduced profitability, further impacted by a world-wide pandemic has the property management industry in a hard market.

Hard Market 101 - Lloyd Sadd Insurance Brokers Ltd.

 

The property and the real estate market are leading the lines of the insurance coverage hardest hit[1] by the hard market cycle.  This is due in part from increases in property claims, water damages, natural catastrophes, and fires.

In addition to the increased claims, the other factors impacting property management & real estate insurance market include:

  • Increase in replacement cost valuations on an average of 7-10%
  • Increase in the number of claims and frequency of claims made by condominium corporations and stratas (“claims inflation”)
  • Repair costs have increased on average of 10%[2]
  • Insurance industry recorded an underwriting loss of $244 million for the period and an overall loss of $5.1 million[3]
  • Historic low interest rates
  • Increase in severity for liability losses (“social inflation”).

Equally important, there has been a decrease in the number of insurance companies in Canada that are willing to insure real estate, especially condominium corporations.  In such cases, capacity is restricted resulting in less insurance supply.  For this reason, the increase demands leads to increased premiums.

Reported increases in the media highlighting higher premium rates and shrinking coverage capacities confirms what we are seeing and hearing from our partners and services providers.  Alberta is not unique as this market is being throughout Canada and the United States.

Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. has been actively working on this year’s insurance renewal for properties.  With many of the leaders in the insurance markets indicating hard market our team has been heavily involved in navigating the current insurance market with our team and master insurance partners to mitigate the financial impact from the changes in the marketplace to achieve the best rates for our clients.  

The following is a snapshot of the strategic marketing undertaken by our team to aggressively respond to adverse market conditions.  Our goal is to mitigate the financial repercussions impacting condominium corporations and multi-family rental dwellings across Canada.  

 

How to get ahead in a hard insurance market?

With insurers struggling to meet demand, there has been an increase in information required.  Many insurers are placing requirements such as the: mandating preventative maintenance programs; replacement of roofs; and even, mandating improvements to boiler & mechanical systems and the replacement of hot water tanks & furnaces. 

Insurers want more robust information, and it is important that you are prepared. It is integral that preventative maintenance programs are in effect and inspections are up-to-date.  Properties need to be well maintained and risk assessments completed.  In situations where the insurer requires replacements or improvements, the time taken and information gathering helps in the long run when it comes to renewal conditions.

Our valued partners at Lloyd Sadd Insurance Brokers Ltd. further recommend that to get the best results in a hard market you need to:

  • Start early
  • Provide a robust renewal submission highlighting your maintenance programs and property management standards
  • Focus on claims mitigation
  • Keep property appraisals up to date
  • Build partnerships and promote loyalty[4]

The early intervention taken by Emerald Management & Realty Ltd., including gathering and preparing information to promote the properties and condominium corporations has been presented and marketed to various insurance companies. Early indications and feedback from the insurers indicate that the process has proven to assist with renewals.  

Further to the current insurance environment, Emerald continues to work on behalf of its clients to minimize the impact of this shift on pricing to maintain the benefits of our insurance program.   We continue to be focused on achieving the advantage of our low corporate rates, reasonable deductible levels, prompt claims management, rental revenue loss coverage, vacancy coverages. 

To discuss the Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. master insurance program advantage and any concerns you have with your current property coverage please contact our team today. 

For more information about the hard insurance market visit:

[1] Hub International 2021 Hard Market Information Bulletin

[2] BFL Canada Insurance Services Inc. Market Insight December 2018

[3] Navacord Hard Market Insights

[4] Lloydsadd Hard Market Insight 2021


Why do property managers do inspections?

Importance of Property Management Inspections

 

Property Inspections are a key to property management systems and processes … and again this year, it looks like inspections will be completed very differently than they have in the past!  Inspections: pre, during and post COVID-19, continue to evolve while their importance remains relevant as ever.

Rooftop views captured of downtown Calgary during recent condominium property inspection (May 2021)

Moreover, inspections are done for a variety of different purposes and reasons. For example: checking for damages before and after move-ins or move-outs; inspecting work completed by contractors, making sure your property’s first impression meets the grade; and, helping to plan for preventative or necessary repairs.  Likewise, inspections are done on different schedules (ie) weekly, monthly, semi-annually and annually.  It often depends on the purpose and property needs.

Another important purpose for property management inspections are to ensure that you are meeting your insurance obligations when it comes to vacant properties.  For instance, insurance companies can require vacant inspections at certain frequencies depending on the policy.

Ultimately, the goal of any inspection is to protect the equity in your property for the enjoyment of owners and residents. 

Essentially, the purpose of an inspection is to observe conditions, assess maintenance programs and note opportunities for improvement.  Furthermore, they provide a mechanism for reporting back  to property owners and condominium boards.  This helps facilitate conversations to protect that value of the property.  Further, this integral procedure helps a property manager support the owner or condominium board in making informed decisions.  Having knowledge is key in taking a proactive approach and optimizing the occupants use and enjoyment. 

Depending on your property management agreement, property inspection help a board or owner make informed decisions about maintenance requirements and protect the value of their asset. 

Often a condominium community or apartment building will employ a resident manager or building operator to support this mission of conducting regular site inspections. Other times and depending on your budget along with the engagement of your condominium board, committee or owners, everyone can assist with inspections.  Ultimately, everyone’s support as a team vested in the success of your property and being the “eyes and ears” assists to catch property issues and maintenance concerns so that problems can be addressed before they escalate into bigger issues.

Since every property and condominium corporation is unique, it is important to ask your property management company how they inspect the properties they manage and their recommendations on how they can help support effective solutions to meet your expectations that are in-line your budget requirements.

The following are questions to consider when it comes to inspections:

Why do I need regular inspections?

Regular inspections help avoid bigger problems from taking you by surprise. Regular inspections are great for inspecting common areas and the exterior.  With COVID19 and everyone’s safety top of mind, the inspection of interior spaces is being handled a little more creatively.  The use of ZOOM, FaceTime and Video Conferencing have proven fantastic tools when quarantine concerns and social distancing rules apply.  Being flexible and resourceful is more important than ever – ‘where there is a will, there is a way”.

How often do you inspect the exterior of the property? 

TIP: A drive by inspection can be done frequently.  While it is less formal, this type of inspection may be very acceptable for frequent visits. 

A full-scale exterior inspection is great for seasonal changes or after large infrastructure repairs. Typically, a full building or 100% inspection is done on an annual basis, but some areas or features of your property or condominium corporation may need to be checked on more frequently.

Again, this is something you can schedule quarterly or when session changes – basically at an interval that makes sense for your property.  Do you have a goal around capital expenditures? Are you reviewing potential improvements relating to your reserve fund report? Go through your list, bring along your smart phone and start walking!  Check off items that are in good shape and make detailed notes of anything that needs fixing.  You can always prioritize a plan of action later … and don’t forget to take pictures!  Your property management company will have tools and a process in place to assist with their internal controls and reports when it comes to reviewing needs and arranging for repairs and maintenance.

Who completes the property inspection?

As noted above, the property inspection is integral to the successful management of any property and often a responsibility assigned to the property management company.  Inspections can be completed by the property manager, however; they can also be completed by the broker, team manager, support staff or valued contractors. 

Inspections are valuable tools to assess what needs to be done to keep your property in great condition, maintain value and potentially reduce the need for significant repairs. Sometimes, you may feel that more frequent inspections are required to support your goal with respect to the overall resident experience and asset appreciation. 

A successful inspection requires a property manager to be watchful and observant, looking at property element with scrutiny balanced with the understanding of the owners goals and budget instructions. 

While this may be out of the scope of your property management services, depending on your needs and expectations, you may wish to add-on additional inspections for a set fee or may look at engaging a professional inspection company.

What’s on a property inspection checklist?

This varies from property to property and depends on the type of inspection you are completing.

For example, a bareland condominium corporation or a single family home would have different elements compared to an apartment building or hi-rise condominium.  Larger properties will have more complex mechanical checks supported by preventative maintenance programs and annual certifications. 

Depending on the type of property your property manager is inspecting, the following is a quick sample of what a property manager would look at during a routine inspection:

Windows

  • Check to see if there are any signs of moisture
  • Do opening and closing devices work
  • Are there any visible window seal issues?
  • Are the windows clean
  • Are moisture issues evident on ledges
  • Look for any irregular concerns

Common Hallways

  • Inspect the walls, floors, and ceilings for damage and cleanliness
  • Pay attention to HVAC systems and venting
  • Is emergency signage working
  • Are fire doors closed
  • Inspection dates on fire extinguishers
  • Look out for signs of rodents or bugs
  • Are hallways free of hazards

Exteriors

  • Note the condition of the siding or brick
  • Inspect for litter
  • Review exterior landscaping
  • Inspect exterior doors to ensure they close property and are secure
  • Look at sidewalks for hazards
  • Review signage
  • Examine balconies for bylaw infractions or potential repairs 

Risk management

  • Review factors affecting health such as cleanliness
  • Inspect items that support well-being and safety of residents
  • Survey property operations and resident liaison activities
  • Assessment of risk 
  • Review of security concerns or potential hazards

Again, the type of inspection needed depends on the type of asset and the purpose of the inspection (ie) preventative lifecycle, periodic tenant inspection, building exterior visual assessment to meet city bylaw requirements, etc.,. 

Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. Is a licensed property management brokerage.  Its team of licensed property managers understands the importance of property inspections and the importance of teamwork when it comes to managing real estate assets and condominium corporations.  We pride ourselves on a reputation grounded in integrity, reliability, and value for service. We are excited for the opportunity to help you to define goals, review strategy options and understand your property maintenance needs and can help you:

  • Evaluate performance and progress
  • Identify successes and problems
  • Make long-term decisions, and
  • Develop long term property maintenance plans.

All of this starts with a property inspection and a conversation about your goals! Contact us today to learn how Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. can help your condominium corporation and condo board plan for the future.  In any condominium corporation, this is an essential part of strong management and potentially prevent painful situations like expensive special assessments.  For more information on the wide variety of services Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. offers, please contact our team at 403-237-8600.


Rain Related Leaks

What can you do when the weatherman predicts significant amounts of rainfall and you are experiencing a leak or flooding?

 

Rainy days … … we can appreciate that you would rather be snuggling in with a good book or catching up on your latest Netflix craving, however, sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas.  If you experience a leak or flooding during a rainfall or stormy weather, there are some steps you can take to mitigate damage in your home. 

 

Step 1. 

Try and prevent as much damage as possible. As soon as you notice a a leak coming into your home, try to contain it. Place a bucket and/or a tarp under the leak to help minimize damage. 

TIP … If you notice water coming through a crack in the caulking in your home, around windows or doors, place a towel at the leak to catch the water.

Monitor the water leak and contact our team at Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. at 403-237-8600 to discuss next steps.  Sometimes, a roofer or maintenance person may not be able to assist until after the rain stops because of safety concerns.

If the leak is containable and not an emergency,  complete our on-line maintenance request form to let us know of the non-emergency maintenance issue. Continue to monitor the situation and if it gets worse, keep us informed so that your issue can be handled at the appropriate priority level.

Step 2.

Try to dry out the area as much as possible. Use old towels, mops or other tools you have at your disposal to safely remove the water.  Make sure to safeguard your personal items, electronics, etc., by moving them away from the water (finding another room or alternate location might be best as repairs could also be required and no point in moving them multiple times if you can avoid it).  Unplug electronics and appliances where necessary. 

TIP … Fans can be of great help! Not only do they circulate the air and dry out the area but can also help prevent mold from growing!

Again, if the leak is containable and not an emergency,  complete our on-line maintenance request form to let us know about the issue. Monitor the situation, and if it gets worse, keep us informed so that your issue can be handled at the appropriate priority level.

Step 3.

If the leak gets worse, call us right away at 403-237-8600.  Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. has a team on-call to address after hours emergencies. Let us know what is going on so that we can provide assistance and help trouble shoot the situation. We can experience high call volumes during periods of heavy rainfall; all calls will be handled in priority sequence.

TIP …  If you reside in a single family home, make sure your downspouts are directed away from your home. If you notice a leak in your basement during the rainfall, start by double-checking the positioning of your downspouts. If a downspout is causing water to run towards the home, change the direction away from the home and let your Property Manager know about the situation.

Depending on the size of the leak, you may need to call in extra support … especially when a bucket or tarp won’t contain the water.  If a bucket and tarp are not an option, we might need to pump out the water or use alternate measures to handle the water entering your home. 

Emerald Management & Realty Ltd.

As referenced above, sometimes problems that arise from a leaking roof can often only be temporarily repaired until the rain stops in part due to danger to workers and because the area of repair needs to dry out first.

Once these steps have been taken and any danger to yourself and you home has been avoided, as soon as the rain stops, more permanent repairs can be arranged. 

Many leak and flood related repairs can only be done when the rain has stopped and the area dried out.

Depending on the nature and extent of the damage, this may result in an insurance claim.  In these situations, the scheduling of repairs will involve the insurance company and timing of repairs impacted by their schedules. 

Emerald Management & Realty Ltd. has over 40 years of property management experience in Calgary, AB & area.  Locally owned and operated, our top choice team has the extensive knowledge and support systems in place to attend to your property management concerns with the goal of protecting your real estate asset and the residents who call the property “home”.