An Edmonton lawyer is travelling the province talking to condominium owners, managers and insurers in an effort to get hard data on Alberta’s condominium insurance.
On Thursday, Hugh Willis asked Fort McMurray condo owners about their experience in getting insurance coverage on their condo complexes.
The response was worrying, he said.
“We can’t wait. We can’t see another cycle of this,” Willis said. “People are losing their homes over this issue and we don’t want to see it without the industry pushing a response and suddenly we’re back next summer and it’s happening again.”
It’s unclear what’s causing insurance rates to jump sharply across the province, he said. While some owners are told they made too many claims, others seeing huge increases have made no claims in the last five years.
“We have to gather the industry data so that we can have more informed or more productive discussions,” Willis said.
Since August, condos have been facing much higher insurance premiums.
Steven Webb, an owner and condo board member at Wood Meadows Estates North in Fort McMurray, said the insurance premium on his condo jumped from $500 last year to $4,500 this year.
And 20 per cent of the units weren’t able to pay their share of the insurance, meaning the condo board has to come up with the money to cover the premium.
“I’m not sure if we can actually do it,” said Webb. “There’s undue pressure on the boards now.”
To cover some of the cost, the board reduced services like landscaping and maintenance.
“That’s going to affect the quality in appearance and curbside of your units because they’re no longer maintained properly,” Webb said.
That also trickles down, because they aren’t going to hire as many people to do work on the condos, meaning there are fewer jobs in the region, he said.
It also means he has less disposable income to donate to local charities Webb said.
Willis said these concerns are something he hadn’t thought of before going to Fort McMurray.
“Different perspectives can offer different solutions or different nuances to solutions,” he said.
Condo corporations typically operate in silos so it’s important to gather information from a wide swath of organizations to get a proper understanding of the market, Willis said.
Heather Campbell, a condo owner and property manager with Trilogy condominiums in Abasand, said higher insurance costs means the condo doesn’t have the money for upgrades to decks and roadways.
“We hear grumbling every time we raise condo fees, but then when we can’t do a project … we get anger.”
Campbell said she’d like the government to take action quickly, “not after a study is done.”
“Cap it now. Let’s review the information that’s collected, and come up with a conclusion between both parties.”
Willis said he sees the same issue across the province, particularly the greater Edmonton area.
Other organizations are doing similar research including the Canadian Condominium Institute North Alberta Chapter, Strathcona County Condominium Association and Condo Owners Forum Society of Alberta.
Willis said his tour will end in Lethbridge on April 16. He expects to have the first results from the study mid to late May.
Willis said anyone interested in participating can fill out the survey.