COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Update #6

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It is hard to believe it’s been a month since our first email update to you. We’d like to begin this message by wishing all of you and your families the best possible holiday long weekend- whether you’re celebrating Easter, Passover, something else or nothing in particular.  We hope you’re able to rest and relax this weekend, perhaps even visit with friends and family (from a respectful social distance) and enjoy the beautiful weather here in the Lower Mainland.

Some updates from us:

  • BC Housing – has released it’s Information Guide for Strata Housing. The Guide covers topics such as Council and Owner responsibilities during these unique times, difficulties Strata Managers may be facing with newly remote/limited workforces along with all of the additional COVID-19 related responsibilities, Privacy concerns (in particular, a reminder that the privacy of any ill individual must be protected) and more. We’ve also included a link to the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH)’s COVID-19 Precautions for Multi-Unit Residential Buildings where you’ll find information on cleaning and other precautions in multi-unit housing.
  • Insurance – continues to be a very challenging topic for many Strata Corporations, particularly those with renewals that have occurred recently or will occur in the near future. As we’ve written about on our blog, premiums and deductibles are seeing significant increases and Strata Corporations are being left with little choice but to either pass a special levy or borrow money from their Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF) in order to pay the new and higher premiums. Fortunately, and as noted on the BC Housing site, utilizing Section 98(3) of the Strata Property Act, the CRF can be accessed to pay for increased premiums. Of course, this doesn’t solve the medium term issue of how to ensure solvency for your Strata Corporation which, for most of our clients, involves increases to their budget at a time when that is all the more challenging for many Owners. We are involved in weekly discussions with BC Housing and other stakeholders on this and other major concerns, and we will provide more information soon on developments and potential solutions.
  • Gatherings are “off the table” – the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has publicly stated that “all gatherings are off the table” in BC. This has significant implications for Strata Corporations, especially as it is becoming clear that the current restrictions on gatherings are not going to be eased through the month of April and likely for several months beyond. We are working hard to develop alternatives to in-person meetings such as utilizing Zoom and Microsoft Teams for Strata Council meetings and employing Restricted Proxies to conduct Annual and Special General Meetings where appropriate. Your Property Manager will consult with you directly on the best options to ensure your Strata Council and Strata Corporation can continue to function during this crisis.
  • Warranties­ – though we were pleased to report in our previous update that the Province has suspended Limitation periods, no such change exists for 2/5/10 Warranty reporting deadlines as, according to government, there is no appetite for warranty providers to voluntarily extend deadlines. Because many warranty reviews require in-suite investigation, it’s more important than ever that Strata Corporations begin the inspection process early to ensure that the reports can be prepared and filed appropriately. Your Property Manager will provide you with guidance around warranty obligations. We ask that you please pay close attention to deadlines and provide us with instructions so we can get as much detail as possible to the warranty provider prior to the deadline to preserve the Strata Corporation’s claim (this could include filing less than full evidence on a concern that ‘may’ result in a defect in the future and noting COVID-19 constraints as hindering the collection of all required data).
  • Stratawest – our Property Managers are working from home on a nearly full time basis, with our administration and accounting teams working in split shifts and remotely to ensure adequate social distancing.  We, like most businesses fortunate enough to be operating, also have employees impacted directly by COVID-19. This situation has greatly affected normal workflows and reduced overall ‘bandwidth’, particularly in accounting. We have had to make some hard, on-the-fly decisions (such as cutting off Pre-Authorized Debit changes much earlier than normal in March) in order to prioritize more urgent work and some of these decisions cause unavoidable negative consequences. We sincerely apologize for the delays this situation creates in answering inquiries, especially those of a non-urgent day to day nature, but it is unavoidable under the circumstances. We are working harder than ever (7 days a week, in fact) to ensure that all crucial items (essential building maintenance, basic life safety system inspections, building emergencies/insurance claims/restoration, invoice payment, building staff payroll, financial statements, accounts receivable, etc.) are in hand and that urgent inquiries get addressed.

We’re very appreciative to the many kind notes we’ve received from Strata Councils and Owners who have shown patience and expressed appreciation for the work we’re doing under very challenging circumstances. It is extraordinarily encouraging for all of us.

We will continue to “push” updates via email directly to Strata Councils, and we encourage you to visit the COVID-19 section of our website. We also recommend that you share the link to the site with Strata Lot Owners since it has a lot of useful information and answer many of the questions they might have during this time.

Thank you for your continued support, and for everything you do on behalf of your Strata Corporations.