Condo Smarts: Strata can’t stop owner from filing insurance claim

Dear Tony: Our building had a pipe break between two units, flooding my condo, a common hallway and our building entry.

Our strata corporation has a deductible of $5,000 and the property manager determined the value of damages to my unit was $5,500.

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As a result, the manager and the council decided not to file an insurance claim and advised they would repair the common areas and I would be responsible for my own unit.

Why should I be stuck with all of the damages to my unit, which included the restoration company removing the drywall from my ceiling and damages to my carpets and walls?

My insurance company will not cover these damages, as they claim it is the responsibility of the strata corporation and covered under its insurance.

I am left with no ceiling in my living room, bare floors and water-damaged walls and no insurance to cover the claim, and the strata council is doing very little about repairing the damages to the common areas. The council does not want our deductible to be increased, so it blocked the claim. Help!

Veronica C., Richmond

Under the Strata Property Act, an owner and a tenant are named insureds on the strata corporation policy. There is absolutely no reason for you to be living under these conditions, as you pay for the insurance through your strata fees like every other owner.

The strata corporation cannot block or split the claim. The pipe break was a single incident and forms one insurance claim. An owner can file the claim directly with the strata corporation’s insurer, and they will send an adjuster to investigate the claim and the damages.

If the amount is above the deductible, the claim will be activated and the strata corporation’s insurance will cover the restoration of the original assets and fixtures of your strata lot, including the drywall and original flooring, damage to electrical services and any insulation requirements, which will also include damages to the common property.

The insurance deductible will be a common expense of the strata corporation, which the strata can pay from its operating fund or contingency fund, or issue a special levy to the owners.

Owners are responsible for personal assets and betterments that have been made to their units. These include upgrades such as new flooring or kitchen or in-suite renovations. Personal contents and upgrades should be added to your homeowner insurance.

If the total amount is below the deductible, each owner would be responsible for the repairs to their strata lots. This is one of the most common occurrences when someone’s toilet or tub overflows.

Owners should determine if their homeowner policy covers repairs to their strata lot in the event a strata claim is below the deductible amount.

Whenever there is escape of either clean water from a broken pipe or grey water from a tub or toilet, immediately activate restoration services and call the insurance company.

In addition to health and safety issues, water left in wall and ceiling cavities will result in long-term damages to suites and common areas, especially in wood-frame construction.

I recommend that all owners, landlords and tenants purchase condo insurance for their personal contents, living-out expenses, betterments to strata lots, personal liability, liability for an insurance deductible if they are responsible for a claim, and damages to their suited that might occur under the deductible amount.

Looking for more info on strata insurance? The CHOA spring seminars focus on insurance, harassment and bullying, and operations planning. Seminars are scheduled for March 20 and April 27 in Victoria, March 21 in Courtenay and March 22 in Nanaimo. Go to choa.bc.ca to register.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association.

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