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Condo insurance crisis leads to online petition by New Westminster, B.C., woman

Condo owner launches petition demanding gov’t action over rising strata insurance
WATCH: A B.C. condo owner is taking matters into her own hands in the insurance crisis that has some strata owners facing massive premium increases and others unable to get insurance at all.

Asifa Lalji has worked hard to stay in her New Westminster, B.C., home.

When she was diagnosed with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, she invested thousands of dollars to make the strata unit more accessible. Now, she worries an increase in her building’s insurance premiums might force her to move.

“You’re paying for insurance as long as you don’t use it,” said Lalji. “Once you actually need to use it, then they don’t want to insure you anymore.”

READ MORE: BC. insurance brokers call for legislative reforms to tackle skyrocketing strata rates

The premium for Anchor Pointe on Quayside Drive climbed 300 per cent from $69,000 to $259,000 upon renewal this year. The reason the strata council has given — there were fewer insurance providers willing to provide the coverage. The companies that would, meanwhile, have dramatically increased the cost.

“We got word three days before the insurance expires that the rate was going to go up,” said Stephen Holmes, the strata council treasurer.

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Some stratas having trouble getting property insurance
Some stratas having trouble getting property insurance

Strata council president Bruce Campbell said there are many residents in the strata who are just scraping by financially. The increase in monthly fees might mean cutting back on food budgets or being forced to move elsewhere, he added.

“It’s absolutely gut-wrenching, because you’re trying to handle a situation where people are in a panic mode,” said Campbell.

READ MORE: Insurance Bureau of Canada creates task force to deal with sky-high strata insurance

Lalji has launched an online petition seeking government intervention. She said the explanations given by the insurance companies don’t add up.

“They’ll say B.C. is a high earthquake zone,” Lalji explained. “Well, B.C. has always been a high earthquake zone … that never had an impact before. Why now?”

Changes proposed to limit surging strata insurance costs
Changes proposed to limit surging strata insurance costs

Pressure has been mounting on the provincial government to act. While full building recovery insurance is mandated under the B.C. Strata Property Act, there is no mechanism in place to ensure private insurers will offer the coverage at an affordable cost.

Premier John Horgan said while this issue has only come up in recent months, Finance Minister Carole James has set up a caucus committee to look into the issue.

READ MORE: ‘Government needs to get involved’: B.C. strata’s plea after insurance bill with 780% hike

“We’re going to be speaking to the Insurance Bureau of Canada to get their rationale for these unusually large spikes in costs, and we’re going to do what we can to manage those down,” he said.

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Andrew Wilkinson, leader of the BC Liberal Party, was quick to highlight the NDP government’s slow response.

READ MORE: Langley condo owners reeling after strata insurance deductible jumps from $5K to $250K

“We raised this with the NDP finance minister last week and she blew it off,” said Wilkinson. “Condo owners need to know that government is on their side.”

There are more than 30,000 strata buildings in British Columbia. Lalji hopes her petition will pick up in momentum and send a message to all stakeholders that the current response and explanations aren’t enough.

“I just spent a substantial amount of money making my unit accessible,” she said. “It’s the first time I’m actually worried about where I’m going to live.”

More sky-high insurance strata increases
More sky-high insurance strata increases