COVID-19 and insurance woes create ‘perfect tsunami’ for condo managers

COVID-19 and insurance woes create ‘perfect tsunami’ for condo managers

The excerpted article was written by Yvette Brend · CBC News ·

The coronavirus crisis is complicating condo life, just as a second wave of soaring insurance premium hikes is about to kick in.

For condominium residents, the COVID-19 crisis has led to elevator restrictions, party bans and quiet hallways as people try to keep two metres apart.

For condo property managers — it’s a frantic time.

“Some stratas are more prone to drama that others,” said property manager Allen Regan who is busy keeping up with changing disinfecting and physical distancing rules, while juggling the personalities and logistics involved in upcoming annual general meetings.

The cost of catastrophes, claims and expensive repairs have sent insurance costs soaring — in some cases doubling them — and many were hit with new costs at the end of 2019.

The other half were bracing for cost increases starting April 30.

Then came COVID-19.

“It is sort of a perfect tsunami of problems all coming at once,” said Regan, managing broker with Bayside Properties and Services Ltd., which helps manage strata corporations in the Lower Mainland.

Now the coronavirus crisis is forcing some of B.C.’s condominium stratas onto shaky legal ground as they try to balance achieving a quorum of 10 council members to pass budgets with physical distancing rules.

Building managers are also trying to balance the privacy rights of potentially-infected residents in isolation with the safety concerns of other condo dwellers as the virus spreads worldwide.

Some of them are vulnerable because of their age or underlying health issues. People are being urged to inform management if they are self-isolating, so it can take safety and cleaning precautions.

“You need to look out for them and accommodate them at the same time,” said Tony Gioventu, president of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C.

Condo community enforces social distancing

Gioventu says the condo community is also good at catching rule breakers, like the group that returned from Arizona to Vancouver Island last week and headed out shopping in the community but were reported to health authorities by neighbours.

Gioventu also urges condo dwellers to call police if they hear house parties — as gatherings like this are against provincial health rules and punishable with fines.

As cleaning regimes are ramped up, strata corporations also must pass budget increases to handle rising insurance costs. Regan says this must happen fast as strata corporations are non-profits, so they do not have financial cushions to draw on if owners refuse to approve budget increases or pay strata fees or special levies.

If that happens, then “it’s a huge, immediate financial problem for the strata corporation. This at a time when people are strapped financially,” said Regan.

‘Rabble rousers’ may challenge video AGMs

He is not sure if anybody will challenge the video conferenced AGMs as invalid under the Strata Property Act.

To hold an AGM, there needs to be 10 people present, and that’s a challenge with social distancing rules that require humans to stay two-metres apart. Regan said that stratas can pass a bylaw to allow an alternative form of meeting but not many stratas have that in place.

So they are moving ahead anyway, as budgets need approval and corridors need cleaning.

“We have a few rabble rousers that have threatened to go to the CRT — which is the civil resolution tribunal — if meetings aren’t held ‘properly.’ I think most councils are saying fine. Let the chips fall where they may,” said Regan.

Source: CBC News

Insurers are under the gun as COVID-19 claims mount – but will those claims be covered?

Insurers are under the gun as COVID-19 claims mount – but will those claims be covered?

The excerpted article was written by

The Star Vancouver

When Dr. Michael Duchnay had to close his west end Toronto dental practice due to the pandemic, it was catastrophic, but there was one stroke of good luck: He had insurance. In fact, his business policy explicitly mentioned pandemic-caused closures.

But when he shuttered his shop March 15 after an advisory from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario strongly recommended he do so, his initial attempt to collect was rebuffed.

It took two weeks of runaround before insurance giant Aviva Canada agreed to pay him and other Ontario dentists for the pandemic coverage included in their expensive policies.

But while the dentists may have won their fight, other Ontario business owners might not be so lucky, experts say.

“I would say that given the extent of the loss here, cutting across multiple industries, really all sectors, the insurers are in a bit of a difficult situation,” says Toronto lawyer Hovsep Afarian, who specializes in insurance coverage law.

“So their reflexive response has been, let’s deny and we’ll sort things out later,” says Afarian, who works at the national firm McCarthy Tetrault LLP.

He says denials are being made to all kinds of claims — likely, he believes, because the insurance companies are hoping that Ottawa will offer up more aid in the meantime.

“I think a part of it may be motivated by the potential for the government to step in and provide alternative avenues for redress,” says Afarian who has already taken on pandemic clients.

“So if there’s another pocket involved, the insurers have essentially mitigated their loss because no doubt they’re going to say ‘look to the government first.’ ”

Aviva Canada CEO Jason Storah announced Tuesday evening that the company would be honouring its pandemic commitment to dentists, saying they had a unique arrangement for such viral coverage.

“There were a number of complex legal, regulatory and operational hurdles related to the dentists’ claims that we simply had to work through,” Storah said in a statement.

But, Storah said, the hurdles have now been overcome.

“As a result I can confirm today that Aviva Canada will of course stand by this pandemic coverage,” he said, adding there would be guidance from the company soon on making claims.

Afarian says most businesses would not have pandemic language written into their property policies. And if they don’t, he says, there is a real legal question as to whether pandemic related interruptions are covered.

“Business interruption is usually a component of a property policy (for which) you need physical damage,” Afarian says.

“So the debate in the industry is ‘do we have physical damage if there is a virus in the building?’ ”

READ MORE HERE: 

Can I lower my car insurance rates if I’m working from home?

Can I lower my car insurance rates if I’m working from home?

The excerpted article was written by Cathy Kearney · CBC News

Auto insurance is an essential financial protection, but as the COVID-19 pandemic forces more employees to work from home and results in others being laid off, many are left to wonder if they can drop some of their coverage to save on premiums.

CBC News reached out to several insurance brokers in Metro Vancouver who say they have been inundated with calls from drivers asking about making changes to their insurance coverage.

Kally Khosah with InsureBC says a number of people are cancelling their auto insurance altogether.

“The majority of people who have lost their jobs are coming in and cancelling their insurance,” said Khosah.

“I would say maybe one or two out of 10 customers is looking to cancel their insurance,” he said.

CBC News asked Khosah what drivers should consider when making decisions about lowering auto insurance coverage.

Can drivers lower their insurance rates if they are working from home and therefore not commuting anymore?

“They can. What they need to do is change their plan from work use to strictly pleasure. That can be changed at any time.

“And if they are going back to work — go see your broker and they will change it back to work use.”

How much will I save?

“It depends on how far you drive to work. If it’s under 15 kilometres you won’t see that big of a difference. If it’s over 15 kilometres it will be more. And if it’s for business use it will be even more of a savings.

“You can go all the way down to bare-bones basic coverage but that’s only going to give you $200,000 liability.

“At this level there’s no coverage on the vehicle if they have an at-fault accident. And there’s no comprehensive, so there’s no fire, theft or vandalism coverage at that level.”

Is it wise to drop coverage down to the the most basic level?

“I tell people never to go down that severely. A good way to decrease your insurance is to slightly lower your liability and raise the deductible. That’s a good way to save some money without losing all your coverage.”

What happens if I can no longer afford to pay my insurance?

“ICBC is offering a deferral program for up to three months.”

What should I do if I get into an accident?

“First thing you want to do is contact ICBC. You also want to write down as much information as you can about what happened and write down the other party’s information. If anybody’s seriously injured, of course you want to contact the police.”

I have been laid off and might consider doing deliveries for work. Do I need to change my policy?

Yes. Khosah says that change will be more expensive than business coverage though. The cost depends on the type of car, how old it is and how many kilometres are on it. But it will definitely be an extra fee.

Edited for ILSTV

Source: CBC News

Parents should respect custody arrangements during COVID 19 pandemic: Ont. courts

By Paola Loriggio

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Parents who share custody of their children should continue to split parenting duties with their former spouse during the COVID-19 pandemic, unless there is evidence the kids’ health is at risk, Ontario courts advise.

Though it has reduced its operations due to the public health emergency, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently issued a handful of rulings setting out guidelines for parents confused about how restrictions related to the novel coronavirus affect custody arrangements.

While government and health officials stress the need to stay home, keeping children in their primary residence and thus away from the other parent that is generally not in their best interest, the court said.

“Children’s lives and vitally important family relationships cannot be placed ‘on hold’ indefinitely without risking serious emotional harm and upset,” Justice Alex Pazaratz said in a ruling last week.

“In troubling and disorienting times, children need the love, guidance and emotional support of both parents, now more than ever.”

As such, Pazaratz wrote, the presumption is that existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue in the majority of cases, while potentially making changes to transportation or exchange locations to ensure physical distancing guidelines are followed.

Some parents may have to forgo time with their child if they are under self-isolation due to recent travel or exposure to COVID-19, the judge wrote.

Parents who believe their ex isn’t taking the necessary health precautions can file an urgent motion with the court to review custody arrangements, but they must point to specific behaviours or plans that are inconsistent with COVID-19 protocols, Pazaratz said.

“There will be zero tolerance for any parent who recklessly exposes a child (or members of the child’s household) to any COVID-19 risk,” he wrote.

Justice officials in Quebec issued similar guidelines for parents, stressing the need for collaboration in working out any issues related to the current restrictions.

“The custody or access order should be complied with as much as possible,” the Ministere de la Justice said on its website.

“However, during this pandemic, you can try to work out new terms with the other parent to minimize travel.”

The province has set up a free legal aid hotline for residents unsure of their obligations during the COVID-19 crisis, which it said includes custody issues.

The Law Society of Ontario has also launched a hotline connecting callers with family lawyers who can provide 30 minutes of free legal advice to help determine if their matter is urgent.

Though there will likely be many more cases dealing with custody issues in light of the pandemic, Pazaratz’s ruling and at least two others issued by the Ontario courts send a “clear message” to parents, said Nicholas Bala, an expert in family law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.,

“The message is…be reasonable, act in good faith and expect some eventual accountability if you haven’t done that,” he said, adding any breaches of custody orders will be noted once the courts resume normal operations.

This can be a difficult situation to navigate for many separated parents who feel “an understandable degree of hostility or mistrust towards the other person,” but they must focus on what’s best for their child, he said.

Nadine Russell, a family lawyer with Siskinds LLP in London, Ont., said it’s likely some parents have withheld access to children in a panic, but stressed there is almost always an alternative.

Even if a parent who normally has some access is quarantined due to the virus, video calls can be arranged so children can stay in touch without endangering their health, she said.

“However we can maintain relationships, we should do that,” because no one knows how long the pandemic will last, she said.

For Nicole Odermatt, physical distancing restrictions and prolonged school closures have meant dramatically altering custody arrangements with her ex-husband, with whom she shares the care of two young children.

The Cambridge, Ont., mother said she and her ex normally take their children a six-year-old boy and three-year-old girl for a week at a time, starting on Fridays.

But her ex has asthma and fell ill last week, and his partner is pregnant, which makes them both more vulnerable to COVID-19, Odermatt said.

So Odermatt, who works in the travel insurance industry, picked up the kids early, planning to work from home and care for them at the same time, she said.

Her workload proved overwhelming due to widespread travel cancellations, however, and Odermatt is now using up her paid leave from work, she said.

“It’s more (about) damage control/minimizing-the-risk situation at the moment,” she said.  “Obviously, he misses them, they miss him. It’s hard for me to have them full time but we’ve got to do what we can to keep everybody as safe as possible.”

Hospitality workers hit ‘first and hit hardest,’ says union seeking more support

The union representing many of Canada’s hotel and hospitality workers says almost all its 18,000 members face layoffs due to COVID-19, and it wants immediate help for service workers across the country.

Unite Here officials estimate their members and more than 200,000 other service-industry workers will be unemployed as up to 90 per cent of Canada’s hotels are expected to close amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Zailda Chan, president of Unite Here Local 40 in Vancouver, says hospitality workers are primarily immigrants, women, single parents and people of colour, often living paycheque to paycheque.

She says an 80 per cent wage replacement program is needed because newly announced federal supports or employment insurance will not be enough for workers making about $20 per hour.

Ian Robb, an Edmonton-based Canadian director of Unite Here, says the union must also be consulted as governments consider the take over of shuttered hotels to ease the burden on crowded hospitals.

He supports the move to put  “less needy” patients into hotels but says Unite Here wants to be  “part of the conversation” about who will operate the hotels and work in them.

Chan says the union also hopes any bailouts to the hotel and airline industries will include measures to help employees, such as extension of medical benefits.

“Hospitality workers were hit first and hit the hardest,” Chan said during a teleconference, adding they are among the lowest-paid and face a recovery period that could last six months to a year.

“Eighty per cent wage replacement is not just for hospitality workers, it is for all workers. We are highlighting hospitality workers because we represent thousands in that sector, but we think it should be for all workers,” she said.

Unite Here members are employed in six locals across Canada, in hotels, casinos, airports, arenas, universities, schools and remote resource camps, the union said.

COVID-19 and employment insurance – everything you need to know

The excerpted article was written by DLA Piper

Unprecedented numbers of Canadians are applying for Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits due to an interruption in earnings caused by layoff, sickness or quarantine resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we explore some of the most common questions arising in relation to EI benefits at this time.

What changes have been announced to the EI benefits program in response to COVID-19?

Regular EI benefits

Employees who have been laid off by their employers as a result of business slowdowns or mandatory closures may be eligible to receive Regular EI benefits. Eligible employees may be entitled to receive a maximum of $573 per week for up to 45 weeks. To date, the federal government has not announced any changes to its Regular EI benefits program in response to COVID-19.

EI sickness benefits

Employees who are quarantined or sick due to COVID-19 may be eligible to receive EI sickness benefits up to a maximum amount of $573 per week for up to 15 weeks. Certain measures were adopted with respect to EI sickness benefits in order to respond to novel challenges posed by COVID-19. These measures include:

  • waiving of the one-week waiting period to allow new claimants who are quarantined to be paid for the first week of their claim;
  • the creation of a dedicated toll-free number to support enquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period (1-833-381-2725);
  • waiving of the obligation for people in quarantine to provide a medical certificate in support of their claim;
  • the possibility for quarantined employees to apply for EI benefits at a later date and to have their claim backdated to cover the period of the delay.

How do employees apply for EI benefits?

At this time, applications should be completed online by visiting the Service Canada website. Individuals who present themselves to Service Canada and who would otherwise be able to complete their application online will not be serviced in person. Employees who present themselves to a Service Canada office in person should expect to go through screening and to be required to practice social distancing measures. Employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should not visit or enter any Service Canada office and should call 1-800-O-Canada for assistance with completing their EI application.

What must employers do once employees have experienced an interruption in earnings?

Without delay, employers must issue a Record of Employment (“ROE”) as this is the most important document allowing employees to access EI benefits. In order to complete the ROE, employers should be aware of and use the following codes when indicating the reason for the interruption in employee earnings:

  • When the employee is sick or quarantined, use code D (Illness or injury) as the reason for separation ‎‎(block 16). Do not add comments.‎
  • When the employee is no longer working due to a shortage of work because the business has ‎closed or decreased operations due to coronavirus (COVID-19), use code A (Shortage of work). ‎Do not add comments.‎

How long will it take for employees to receive their EI benefits?

Under normal circumstances, eligible employees are told to expect to receive their first payment within 28 days of submitting a completed application. In the present circumstances and in light of the fact that an unprecedented amount of applications are being received, the processing delay may be longer.

What other financial measures are available to assist employees and employers who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19?

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canadian government previously announced that it would make available an Emergency Care Benefit and an Emergency Support Benefit to employees who did not qualify for EI. On March 25, 2020, the government announced that it created a streamlined benefit, the “Canada Emergency Response Benefit” which combines these two benefits to streamline the application process and will provide $2,000 per month for four months to people who have lost their income due to COVID-19.

Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan

Employers who have no choice but to lay off their employees may elect to enroll in a Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan (SUB Plan) which allows employers to top up an employee’s employment insurance benefits during a period of unemployment due to a temporary or permanent layoff. The amount of the top up can be up to 95% of the employee’s weekly wages/salary, less the amount of the employee’s corresponding EI benefits.

Work-Sharing Program

The Government of Canada has instituted a “Work-Sharing Program” which exists to assist eligible ‎‎employers to avoid layoffs where there is a temporary reduction in the normal level of business ‎activity, ‎namely as a result of COVID-19. Previously, a Work-Sharing Program ‎could only last for a maximum of ‎‎38 weeks, however the maximum period has been extended to 76 ‎weeks in response to COVID-19. ‎

Participating employees receive income support in exchange for agreeing to work a reduced schedule ‎‎and to share available work with other employees over a specified period of time. ‎

Provincial Measures

Additionally, many provincial governments across Canada have announced measures to assist their respective populations in overcoming what is a period of financial hardship for many. Employers and employees should verify if they are eligible for any such programs.

The COVID-19 situation is a rapidly evolving one with new measures being adopted or modified day-by-day and hour-by-hour. We recommend that you consult with a member of our Labour and Employment Team who will ensure that you are acting upon the most up-to-date information.

Source: Lexology

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