Insurance can be complicated

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Tony Gioventu

Dear Condo Smarts: I took our strata corporation policy to the company that provides our homeowner insurance. The broker told me that it was irrelevant, returned it to me and processed our annual renewal.

Well, our new washing machine flooded our home and two others just before Christmas.

The strata insurance paid the claim, but we have a $10,000 water deductible. Our insurance covered only $2,500 of the claim and we’re left paying the rest. What was the point of bringing in our strata policy if the broker never bothered to review our deductibles and adjust our insurance accordingly?

The broker claims there was no additional coverage available.

We want everyone to know that, when they buy homeowner insurance for a condo, you should read the strata policy and ask your broker for specific coverage for the water deductible, before you are crushed with a major bill.

— CM, Saanich

Dear CM: Depending on your insurance provider, there is additional insurance available to cover the higher values of insurance deductibles that a strata unit may be facing.

When homeowners, tenants or landlords purchase insurance, the only way to ensure they can protect themselves is to deal with an insurance company that is experienced with condominium homeowner policies.

You should send or bring a written notice to your agent/broker, including the strata binder cover that shows the deductible amounts for your strata corporation and what your expectations for coverage will be.

If an agent misrepresented the information or disclosure of the coverage, you may have grounds to sue the brokerage.

Consumers can also file a complaint with the Insurance Council of B.C. (

Many strata owners and strata corporations are still sadly underinsured or improperly insured. If your strata is operating any type of commercial ventures, mixed-use properties, suite rentals, public facilities or sub-lease facilities, confirm those activities are covered on your policies.

Unit owners also need to understand that there are limitations of coverage to your unit if the occupancy changes.

Insurance policies are different for resident owners, tenants, landlords, short-term vacation rentals and commercial strata lots. Confirm that your strata unit use is clearly identified on the policy, that you have confirmed the deductible amounts of the strata policy and that you are satisfied with the coverages.

There are significant differences in coverage from company to company, so take the time to read the fine print and understand the exemptions.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association. Send questions to him at [email protected]

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