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Reviewing Canada’s Catastrophic 2020

As the hard insurance market ensues into 2021, we take a look at some of the severe weather catastrophes in 2020 that marked Canada’s fourth highest year in insured losses since 1983. On top of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Canada had experienced insured losses to the extent of nearly $2.5 billion. The cyclical nature of the insurance industry means that after a period of severe loss, insurers must increase premiums and impose stricter underwriting guidelines to take on less risk and recoup for losses. The condominium and strata industry in all parts of Canada are at the tail end of it all, with premiums and deductibles on the rise at escalating rates. 

Rain and Snowstorms in Southern Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia

On January 10, overnight temperatures in Ontario rose to new highs of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius prior to the rainstorm. During the two-day storm, Windsor and London had experienced up to 70 mm of rain and Toronto had recorded 78 mm of rainfall. The Ottawa airport had also experienced 34 mm of rain along with 12 cm of both snow and ice. In Montreal, the rain had begun on January 11, where the city recorded 40 mm of rainfall and 13 cm of ice pellets. On January 31, parts of southern British Columbia had experienced up to 140 mm of rainfall that forced the evacuation of dozens of people. The excessive rain and snowfall had led to overland flooding, seepage, and sewer backups with insured losses totalling nearly $140 million across all three provinces.

Fort McMurray Flooding

On April 26, the Athabasca River saw an alarming escalation in water levels due to a 25-kilometre ice jam, which resulted in major flooding of the downtown Fort McMurray area causing $562 million in insured damageAccording to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the flooding had damaged more than 1,200 properties and displaced 13,000 residents by May 3.  At the time of this incident, overland flood coverage had still been relatively new in Canada and was extremely hard to obtain in flood-prone areas. As a result, many homeowners either lacked sufficient coverage or did not have any at all.

Calgary Hailstorm and Central and Southern Alberta Storms
A month after the Fort McMurray flooding, Calgary was now at the center of the fourthlargest insured loss in Canadian history. On June 13, northeast Calgary had experienced hailstones the size of tennis balls at a speed of 80 to 100 kilometres per hour. Over 70,000 properties and vehicles were destroyed by the hailstorm and many are having to deal with high out-of-pocket deductibles to cover for the damage. Between the months of July and August, Central and Southern Alberta had also faced a series of severe weather patterns totalling an additional $221 million. Condominium insurance premiums in Alberta increased by 20% between Q4 2019 and Q4 2020 marking the highest increase across the country. 
Ontario Windstorm
On November 15, a tornado reaching speeds of 135 kilometres per hour had hit Southern and Central Ontario, particularly the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Niagara region, Muskoka region, and the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shorelines. Pair with heavy downpours that caused lakeside flooding, 540,000 homes reported power outages with debris scattered over cars and buildings. The total insured damage was reported at $87 million, most of which was to personal property. 
Condo and Strata Premiums Remain on the Rise
As local and international catastrophes contribute to the hard market, efforts have been made across the country to make market conditions more attractive for insurers to return to this market, including relief to unit owners themselves. BC’s Finance minister, Selina Robinson, stated that the NDP (New Democratic Party) has started “to chip away at the various component pieces that would help bring insurance rates down … We’ve made a number of changes. There’s more changes coming.” According to the latest “Home Insurance Price Index” released by Lowestrates.ca, from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020, British Columbia had a year-over-year increase of 18%:  

Alberta had a year-over-year increase of 20%: 

Ontario had a year-over-year increase of 8%:

Having Sufficient Coverage and Paying Accurate Premiums

Given the current market conditions, it is critical that your condo or strata corporation is adequately covered in the event of a total loss. We have seen cases where properties have been underinsured, exposing themselves to unnecessary financial risk and liability. At the same time, we have seen properties carrying excessive replacement costs and, as a result, paying too much for insurance. Having an insurance appraisal done by experts trained in local construction costs ensures that you not only have sufficient coverage on your property, but that your premiums are accurate and in line with the market. 

Normac provides three-year appraisal programs with complimentary updates. 
Our industry-leading reports are prepared by replacement cost experts.

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