Normac’s 2020 Year in Review

This year has truly been an unprecedented time for all of us, calling for changes in the workplace and coping with the strain that COVID-19 has had on our day-to-day lives. The team at Normac remained resilient and continued to offer our clients and partners the same excellent service that our company has grown to be known for. As we countdown the last few days of 2020, here are some highlights from this year.  

Note, you can also view this content as an infographic here.

New Website

To kick off 2020, we launched a new website! The goal was to create something modern and user friendly, that easily communicated who we are and the value we provide. This included new graphics, a simplified layout, and smart forms. We are committed to growth and innovation and therefore are always tweaking the site to improve our client experience.

CCI - South Alberta Luncheon

We were a proud sponsor for the CCI-South Alberta Insurance Luncheon. The seminar covered the current landscape of Alberta’s condo insurance market and best practices for condo corporations to prepare for the hard market. We had been given a few minutes prior to the start of the event to share who we are, and had an amazing time mingling with all attendees!

CCI - Okanagan Evening Educational Seminar

We were a proud presenter for an educational seminar held in the Okanagan region. The seminar covered topics on replacement cost values and the strata property insurance market. As one of the keynote speakers, we had the privilege of speaking to the audience on replacement cost values and the importance of insuring to full replacement cost.

Sandwich Making Event

Our head office banded together to hand out 100 meals in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We spent the day shopping, assembling, and distributing meals to people facing social health and proper housing challenges. It was an eye-opening experience for our team, where we were able to help out and connect with individuals who live with disproportionate levels of poverty and marginalization.

Sandwich Making Event

Our head office banded together to hand out 100 meals in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We spent the day shopping, assembling, and distributing meals to people facing social health and proper housing challenges. It was an eye-opening experience for our team, where we were able to help out and connect with individuals who live with disproportionate levels of poverty and marginalization.

Real Estate Conference in the Sun

We were one of the proud sponsors for the biennial Real Estate Conference in The Sun, this year held in San José del Cabo. A joint PAMA and IREM excursion that hosts property managers and industry partners for educational events, networking, and social activities. A wonderful winter escape from 

the snow!

CCI - Golden Horseshoe Chapter Conference

We were one of the proud sponsors for the CCI-Golden Horseshoe Annual Chapter Conference. The event hosted educational seminars, motivational speakers, and ended with a post reception party at the Courtyard Marriot. We had a great time mingling with industry professionals and thank all those who had dropped by our booth.

CCI - Golden Horseshoe Chapter Conference

We were one of the proud sponsors for the CCI-Golden Horseshoe Annual Chapter Conference. The event hosted educational seminars, motivational speakers, and ended with a post reception party at the Courtyard Marriot. We had a great time mingling with industry professionals and thank all those who had dropped by our booth.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

When it was officially announced that we were in a global pandemic, Normac’s team responded quickly and effectively to ensure no interruption in service to our clients. We enforced strict health and safety protocols for site inspections, moved our teams to work remotely, and set up systems to continue operating business as usual. As an essential service, our biggest priority was maintaining the safety of our clients, staff, and their families, while continuing to deliver exceptional service and reliable valuations.

Virtual Social Events

Pictured here: the Normac team at a virtual murder mystery escape room. 

 

One thing that hasn’t looked the same is our team’s weekly social gatherings. While we are no longer meeting around the beer fridge, we now connect virtually bi-monthly for cocktails, catch ups, and competitions. Our team is made up of some fierce competitors; from trivia to escape rooms and murder mystery experiences, there is no shortage on smack talk.

Virtual Conferences

In September, we sponsored the CAI Virtual Conference followed by the ACR Virtual conference in November. Both were 2-day events hosting a virtual exhibit hall along with several educational seminars held by industry experts on insurance, communications, and property management. It was a great experience for the team given all in-person events are suspended at this time.

Virtual Seminars

With conferences shifting online, so too did educational seminars. We had sponsored a handful of virtual seminars including the “Riding the Insurance Wave” Seminar held by CCI-Golden Horseshoe, CCI – Vancouver’s seminar on Mental Health, as well an Associa-Vancouver seminar on Complicated Stratas. We had also participated in a virtual escape room with PAMA in November!

Holiday Food & Gift Hamper – Adopt A Family

Normac is proud to announce that this holiday season, a family of three will not be hungry. Through the Surrey Adopt a Family program, the Normac team came together to cover the cost of food for a family, along with holiday gifts for their two daughters. We had a delightful time picking out the gifts. In the famous words of Winston Churchill: “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give however, makes a life.”

Normac Christmas Party

With in-person social gatherings not permitted at this time, Normac had moved our annual Christmas Party online! We kicked off the party with a year-end celebratory message from our President, Cameron Carter, followed by an assortment of fun Christmas activities. The celebrations included a Christmas themed trivia & scavenger hunt along with a Secret Santa gift exchange amongst the staff.

Looking Ahead: Normac’s Vision for 2021

As insurance appraisal specialists, we are continuously improving our internal processes to ensure that no update is missed, and all valuations are delivered on time. Combined with the efforts of our dedicated client services team, we aim to pass on cost savings to our clients without compromising on the quality of our work.

Normac has been recognized as an essential service and will continue to provide our services with little to no disruption to our clients. We have adapted to the new norm – implementing new procedures and abiding by the guidelines set out by public health officials. The safety of our staff and clients is of utmost importance. Learn more about our COVID-19 Response.

We sincerely thank all our clients and partners for your trust in Normac and wish you all a happy holiday!

Do Not Be Underinsured

When people ask us why they need an insurance appraisal done every year, or why they need one at all, the number one thing we tell them is that a current appraisal ensures that they have enough insurance coverage in the case of a loss.

 

Do not gamble with the biggest asset in your life – your home.

The Consequences of Being Underinsured

In August of 2019, a three-alarm blaze tore through an apartment complex in Chilliwack. Investigations determined smoke materials started the fire on a fourth-floor balcony. The fire quickly breached the attic space and by the time fire crews arrived, there were flames as high as 30 feet shooting in the sky.

 

Fortunately, no one was injured but 60 families were displaced in the disaster. Over 16 months later, those families are not yet back in their homes, and to make matters worse, they are facing thousands of dollars in special levies. It turns out, the strata was underinsured by $3.2 million. Now, each unit owes between $36,000-$57,000 to make up for the shortfall in coverage.

 

Read more about this story here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/condo-insurance-fire-1.5829511

How Property Insurance Works

When you live in a strata or condominium corporation, a portion of your monthly fees goes towards paying for annual insurance premiums. Insurance policies are valid for a one-year period and the adequacy of the insurance coverage must be reviewed annually. The board must also report on the insurance coverage at each annual general meeting. The strata or condo’s property insurance is intended to cover the structures, common property, landscaping and original standard unit finishes.

Standard unit fixtures and finishes include cabinets and countertops, lighting fixtures, plumbing, natural gas lines, floor, wall, and ceiling coverings among others.

In BC, Alberta, and Ontario it is not a requirement to carry your own personal homeowner’s insurance, only a recommendation. Some corporations may write into their bylaws that owners must carry personal insurance to cover things like high deductibles. Homeowner’s insurance would typically cover your personal, moveable assets and any improvements made to your unit. It is advisable to review your condo’s insurance policy with your insurance broker to determine if additional coverage is required to help protect yourself.

Derek Wubbs, one of the unit owners from the Chilliwack apartment complex, believed that he had sufficient coverage through the strata’s insurance and did not have personal home insurance for his few valuable possessions:

"I was under the belief that paying my strata fees would result in the appropriate building insurance being purchased."

Why You Need an Insurance Appraisal

An insurance appraisal provides an estimate of total replacement cost for a property in the event of a total loss. This is called the Total Insurable Value (TIV) and it is used for placing accurate and sufficient property insurance. All property owners should have an insurance appraisal completed on an annual basis and here are FOUR reasons why:

1. Sufficient Insurance Coverage

An annual insurance appraisal ensures that you have sufficient insurance covered in the case of a loss. The fire in Chilliwack is a worst-case example of what can happen when you are underinsured.

2. Avoid Overpayment on Premiums

We have seen cases of properties carrying excessive replacement costs, and as a result paying too much for insurance. An annual appraisal ensures you are only paying for the insurance you need, not more.

3. Avoid Co-Insurance

When a property does not have a current appraisal, it may be subject to a co-insurance clause that requires the owners to self insure a percentage of the replacement cost. Under this scenario, in addition to the deductible, the owners will be responsible for paying a portion of the reconstruction costs on a total loss or partial loss.

4. Fulfill Your Fiduciary Duty

Finally, an up-to-date appraisal ensures that council or board members are complying with their Strata or Condo Acts, which mandate that the board insure the property for a value equal to total replacement cost. Without an appraisal, the council or board can be found to have failed in their fiduciary duty to the property owners, as was the case in this 2008 Quebec apartment fire. Only an experienced, professional appraiser who specializes in replacement costs should determine the Total Insurable Value.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

While we hope that we are never faced with a major disaster, the results of being underinsured can be devastating. There are liability concerns, major financial risk, and significant hardship that can endure for years.

 

Avoid any gamble: An insurance appraisal gives you peace of mind that you and your assets are protected.

Functional Obsolescence: Why Take it Into Account

If you’ve lost power in your condo, it’s hard to imagine doing anything other than walking over to your utility closet, opening up your electrical panel, and flipping a switch in your circuit breaker. But for others living in older buildings, it may not be so easy to get power back. Some residential buildings built 30+ years ago are still equipped with fuse boxes. Fuse boxes are usually located in a common area, such as a hallway or a meter room. And unlike a circuit, a fuse will blow when overheated and will need to be replaced. Time to get strata to call an electrician! On the other hand, the internal mechanism of a circuit breaker will trip and shut off the power when there is a surge of electricity. Nothing gets burnt, so there’s nothing to replace. To restore power, you can simply reset the circuit breaker by flipping the switch back on. This makes a circuit breaker the preferred choice between the two, as it can be used over and over again. A fuse box is an example of functional obsolescence.

What is Functional Obsolescence?

You may have never heard of the term functional obsolescence, but there is a pretty good chance you might have seen it. Ever been to an apartment unit that has three bedrooms but just one bathroom? The textbook definition of functional obsolescence according to the Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal is “the impairment of functional capacity of a property according to market tastes and standards.” Another common (and outdated) feature found in older properties is single-paned windows. There’s a slim chance you’ll find these in newer buildings, as double-paned (or even triple-paned) windows are now the norm due to their energy-efficient, noise-cancelling, and long-term cost-savings qualities.

An apartment unit with 3 bedrooms but only 1 bathroom is considered functionally obsolete as it does not meet current market expectations.

Functional Obsolescence and Insurance Appraisals

At Normac, our accredited appraisers use a Cost Approach to determine our replacement costs. Estimates are based on replacing a property with an equally desirable substitute, as close as possible to where the property stands now. In other words, we generally assume a like-for-like replacement of all components of the property. However, we must also consider what has changed since the original property was built. There are some circumstances—such as in the case of fuse boxes—where it is safe to assume that existing components within the property will be replaced with a similar alternative, one that is up to current industry and technology standards. Fuse boxes were not designed to deal with today’s electrical loads—they are considered functionally obsolete—and so replacing them with modern circuit breakers in the case of a total loss is a reasonable assumption.

We take functional obsolescence into consideration in this process because in most cases, it will cause the cost per square footage of the property to go down. During an appraisal, we try to estimate how much it would cost to replace the utility in the building rather than how much it would cost to reproduce the exact property.

Copper vs. PEX Plumbing

Copper pipes are: rigid, fire-resistant, recyclable.
PEX pipes are: low cost, bendable, easy to cut.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at copper vs. PEX (plastic) piping. Technology often changes the choice of construction materials. Two decades ago, copper piping was the gold standard of plumbing. It is a time-tested water supply line material with its list of pros, but that doesn’t mean that it’s immune to trouble. For one, copper pipes are more likely to break if the water inside freezes. Copper is also a very rigid material, which means it has to be cut and soldered to size, requiring more connections and thus more installation labour. Then there’s the issue of cost. Copper pipes will cost 58 to 68 per cent more to install than PEX pipes.

 

Conversely, due to its plastic nature PEX pipes can be installed 30 to 40 per cent faster than copper pipes. PEX is also known for its durability. When adjusted for pressure and temperature ratings, it has a predicted life expectancy of 50 years. It is no surprise then why many prefer PEX over copper. Given the higher labour, material, and maintenance costs associated with copper, it is simply impractical not to go with PEX instead. This shows how vital it is for your appraiser to have insight on current standards of material and design in order to produce the most accurate Total Insurable Value (TIV) for your property.

 

Qualified appraisers will have the specialized skills and training to determine appropriate costing estimates that take into consideration additional factors such as functional obsolescence, current building practices, and technology improvements. For your peace of mind, leave insurance appraising up to the experts. At Normac, our appraisers keep up to date with construction methods, trends, costs, building codes, bylaw, demolition costs, and provincial Condominium and Property Acts to ensure you are paying for exactly what you need. No more, and no less.

COVID-19: Response Update

COVID19 Normac's Response

Last updated: August 12, 2021

 

To our Normac Clients and Partners,

 

RE: COVID-19 Response Update 

 

As Canadian provinces have progressed to the next step in their phased approaches to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 per the applicable provincial health orders, Normac continues to take a measured response in ensuring the safety of our team and our clients.

 

We continue to take extra safety precautions, maintain physical distancing measures, and remain focussed on three things:

 

1. Ensuring the safety of our employees and clients

2. Continuing to provide exceptional service to our clients

3. Supporting local efforts to limit the spread and impact of COVID-19

 

Effective August 1, 2021, Normac will resume full interior site inspections for all properties in your province.

Read more about Normac site inspections here.

 

The requirement for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during a site inspection is pursuant to current provincial health direction in your region at the time of inspection. For residential interior in-suite inspections, our appraisers will continue to wear masks. If site contacts accompany or interact with an appraiser during an interior in-suite inspection, they are asked to maintain a two-meter physical distance from our appraisers and wear a non-medical mask or facial covering at all times. If you prefer NOT to have an interior in-suite site inspection completed, please advise us immediately.

 

Normac has developed a comprehensive Communicable Disease Plan and COVID-19 Health & Safety Plan as required by provincial health authorities, which provide clear guidance on adjusted working practices and preventative measures to mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19 and/or other communicable diseases that may circulate in a workplace.  

Appraisers and Property Information Collectors will exercise the utmost caution and follow all hygiene protocols when on-site. As per the provincial health direction, Normac team members are well-versed and supported in the following areas:

 

  • Physical distancing measures
  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment
  • Enhanced cleaning, sanitization, & disinfection measures

We remain committed to serving our clients to the highest standards and prioritizing your health and safety at all times.  Thank you for your understanding and your continued trust in Normac.

Stay safe and keep healthy.

 

Sincerely,

 

Cameron Carter

President

COVID-19 Disrupts The Canadian Construction Industry

COVID 19 Disrupts Canadian Construction

As we are now six weeks into a world-wide pandemic, we are looking at the Canadian construction industry to see how they are coping and what we can expect in terms of progress and costs. As an essential service, many sites forge on, but the decline in the availability of workers, accessibility to key construction materials, and delays associated with adapting site safety measures, are all leading to major disruptions across the industry.

About Canadian Construction

The construction sector is one of Canada’s largest employers and a significant contributor to the country’s economy. The industry employs more than 1.5 million Canadians and contributes to 7 per cent of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In March, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) released it’s standardized protocols for all Canadian construction sites – a living document that is updated with the guidance of public health authorities. It highlights best practices and a consistent national approach to protect the well being of all those in the industry.

An Essential Service

Many job sites across the country have remained open and are subject to the recommendations set out by provincial governments across Canada. Mary Van Buren, President of the CCA is quoted in a March press release,

“The projects we deliver are fundamental to Canadians’ quality of life and to the success of our country. In many cases, they support the delivery of essential services, including the clean water we drink, energy infrastructure and the power grid, critical transportation infrastructure, and the hospitals and other health care facilities where we receive care.”
Public Safety Canada supports Van Buren’s claims and explicitly states which sectors of construction are essential on their website here. Yet, many provinces included commercial, residential, industrial, and institutional sectors in their lists of essential workers, including BC, Alberta, and Ontario.

Impacts on Construction Sites

Several provinces across Canada have declared a state of emergency, including Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia. The provinces of Ontario and Québec have additionally issued all non-essential workplaces to be suspended until further notice. While in Québec, all residential construction has been shutdown between March 25 to April 20, some workers returned to residential construction sites to help the province avoid a housing crisis.  Exact figures are unknown as to how many private sector construction sites for residential and commercial use have remained open, but it is suspected that most have continued on despite disruptions and concerns from workers.

Reduced Productivity

The most obvious source of delay occurs from a full project shutdown, following a government order to suspend all work. Projects are experiencing low productivity due to understaffing and physical distancing. Physical distancing measures put forth by the federal government is restricting the number of people on-site and imposing an increased control of site movement. An example of this can be seen in developments where elevators and hoists are used; with only two workers at a time on a 40-storey tower trying to get to their floor[,] that’s an hour per person lost every day (minimum).

Worried Workers

The CCA claims that the construction industry already has “highly disciplined health and safety protocols” which are being “significantly amplified” based on recommendations put forth by public health officials. However, construction workers have voiced concerns about the inability to put the added protocols into practice. Jack Da Silva, an agent for Labourer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183, was captured on video on an unidentified site in downtown Toronto stating,

“When you’re in the work site there, you guys don’t have six feet around you. We’re all breathing on each other. Where’s your eating facilities? Are they sanitized? Do you have water to wash your hands when you eat your sandwiches?”
A Labourers’ Union business agent’s video plea for safer site conditions in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic has been captured and broadcast.

After the recent outbreak at the Kearl Lake oil sands facility in Alberta, these concerns are legitimate and protocols need to be taken seriously and implemented to the fullest extent.

Supply Chains Affected

The disruption in supply chains is also putting a strain on construction projects due to restricted border access and limited manufacturers. While Canada has made efforts to keep supply chains open for trade and commerce, such as the Canada-US border, the decline in manufacturing from other countries is starting to have an impact.

In 2019, China was Canada’s second biggest source of imports, behind the U.S. (which supplies half of what Canada buys). However, much of the items that are imported to Canada from the US require materials which the US imports from China. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, China had shut down factories which were responsible for producing 80% of it’s exports. The Port of Vancouver – a major hub for import goods has reported fewer container vessels due to reduced cargo-loading activities at Chinese ports. There will be a trickle down effect as we deplete our existing inventories, and despite China’s manufacturing beginning to pick up again, demand will continue to slow from it’s major trade partners in North America and Europe.

Dennis Darby of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) said that manufacturers cannot shift their delivery models like other industries. “The production workforce can’t work from home. The local and international supply chains of production components will become restricted and their customers will limit purchases.”

Construction Costs

How construction costs will be impacted is still too early to be seen. It will depend entirely on how long the pandemic continues. The Altus Group has an interesting opinion piece on this that explains a short-term recovery from COVID-19 could see stabilized and perhaps even increased costs, whereas a long-term shutdown will see heavy declines. For a more detailed read, view the article here.

Final Thoughts

The construction industry and its costs are always fluctuating, similar to the fluid developments of COVID-19. The CCA is calling on the Government of Canada to issue a clear statement and work towards future legislation on how it will handle delays, project disruptions, and other costs incurred due to the outbreak. The construction industry plays a vital part in Canada’s overall economic health, so continuation of that sector is imperative for economic recovery. However, precautions must also be taken to ensure the safety of its workforce.

Cover image from blogTO, 3 Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 At Toronto Construction Site: https://www.blogto.com/city/2020/03/3-workers-test-positive-covid-19-toronto-construction-site/

Normac is taking precautionary measures to protect our staff, clients, and to do our part in preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Read more about our efforts here.

COVID-19, The Canadian Economy, And The Housing Market

As Canadians enter their 4th week of a national shut down and physical distancing, we are beginning to see some of the effects on the Canadian economy. There has been an obvious downturn as businesses have closed their doors and workers laid off. While there are a few companies reporting growth during the pandemic, such as Canadian owned Dialogue Technologies and Loblaws, most are seeing steep declines and predictions of a global recession are looming.  While it is still too early to know what will happen or how we will emerge from this, here is a round of what experts are saying about the Canadian economy and how it will affect the housing market.

Canadian Economy - What Is Happening?

Economists and elected leaders agree that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing economic activity to slow and are acting proactively to curb anxiety for both businesses and consumers. The Government of Canada has unveiled a plethora of relief funds in support of small businesses and citizens; the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, subsidies for small businesses, increased childcare benefits, and support for students and vulnerable populations, just to name a few. The Government relief efforts topped $90 billion at the end of March and they have also been in discussion with major banks to further ease the burden on Canadians.

On March 27th, The Bank of Canada lowered the overnight rate to 0.25 per cent, down from 1.75 per cent in the 2nd week of March.  Other major banks have since announced that they will be lowering their credit card interest rates for customers under financial pressure caused by COVID-19 and offering Government backed loans for small businesses as early as next week.  This is in addition to their already implemented mortgage payment deferrals.

While these efforts will help many people during this crisis, critics wonder if it will be enough. Frances Donald, Chief Economist with Manulife Investment Management states that Canada’s economy was already showing warning signs in 2019 with a Q4 growth of only 0.3 per cent. Between a collapse in oil prices and a housing market bubble on the verge of bursting, Canada could have been already heading towards a mini-recession before the outbreak. Over 3 million people have applied for EI and the Emergency Response Benefit since the outbreak, setting “historic levels of devastation in the labour market.”

National Housing Market Trends

There is no single consensus on how COVID-19 will affect Canada’s housing market. Even prior to the outbreak, conflicting headlines about housing bubbles and whether or not we were in one shows that there is a dichotomy between those who anticipated a burst and subsequent recession, and those who believed that the Canadian housing market was generally balanced between supply and demand, despite regional differences.

Time will tell if Canada’s presumed bubble will burst over the following months, but what we know to be true is that the novel coronavirus is changing the way we buy and sell real estate. The Alberta Real Estate Association, in an attempt to minimize face-to-face interactions, has officially banned all of its members from conducting open houses and encouraged agents to use “virtual tours, video-conferencing and digital contract signatures.”

In addition to buyers and listers pulling back from the market, we are also starting to see fallout from lenders as mortgages get cancelled before closing dates. Ron Butler of Butler Mortgage claimed this happened to a client of his after the lender conducted a routine check and discovered the client had been laid off indefinitely. Bank analyst, Robert Hogue claims that the impact of physical distancing and an economic fallout could see home resales at a 20 year low.

Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver – The Numbers

According to John Pasalis, President of Realosophy Realty in Toronto, Canada’s biggest markets were preparing for a “sizzling house-hunting season” prior to the virus entering Canada.  In February, we saw a 27% increase on home sales compared to February 2019 and a 15 per cent increase in the national average home price. Pasalis says, “that outlook has now dimmed.”

The Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) claims that sales activity in Calgary has fallen 11 per cent in March 2020 compared to March of last year, the lowest level since 1995.  The number of new listings has also fallen 19 per cent. Chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie at the CREB is quoted saying, “This is an unprecedented time with a significant amount of uncertainty coming from both the wide impact of the pandemic and dramatic shift in the energy sector.” Because of this, Alberta is expecting price declines to be higher than originally anticipated.

In Toronto, Canada’s largest housing market, the first half of March recorded a surge in sales which were up 50% compared with the same period in 2019, highlighting the strength in Toronto’s housing market. However, after physical distancing measures were introduced in the latter half of the month, sales activity fell a significant 37% compared with a year earlier, and new listings had also dropped 33% from the 2019 figures.  As we are still in the early stages of the pandemic, Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) president Michael Collins states that “sales figures for April will give us a better sense as to the trajectory of the market while all levels of Government take the required action to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Similarities were seen in Vancouver where the first two weeks or March were recorded as the busiest of the year, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s President (REBGV), Ashley Smith
. While March 2020 showed a 46 per cent increase over a record low March 2019, most of the sales were already in process before the Government of BC declared a state of emergency. By the end of the month, sales were 20 per cent below the 10-year average.

The Future Is Unclear

The most optimistic view at this point is that self-isolation will bring the pandemic under control so that businesses can re-open and workers can begin to return to their jobs by this summer. Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, stated in a report, “We believe the fiscal steps are enough to help propel the economy into a forceful recovery in the second half of the year.” But this viewpoint is not shared by everyone.  Frances Donald is concerned that current programs, which are only in place for a three-month period, may not be enough if the majority of those laid off are not rehired. He is quoted:

“We are living through history that will end up in textbooks and case studies as we analyze central bank policy, how effective it is, how quickly central banks should be reacting, and whether or not we look back and say: ‘They acted too late,’ ‘too early,’ or ‘right on time.’”

From BNNBloomberg: https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/rbc-cuts-prime-lending-rate-after-bank-of-canada-move-1.1400320

Normac is taking precautionary measures to protect our staff, clients, and to do our part in preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Read more about our efforts here.

Coronavirus in Condos: Best Practices for Property Managers

social distancing best practices for property managers
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, recommendations for our industry are constantly evolving. We have compiled a list of suggested best practices for Property Managers based on the information currently available. This is Pt. 2 of our series, Coronavirus in Condos.
“Wash your hands and practice social distancing.”

This message has been reinforced time and time again since the World Health Organization (WHO) announced COVID-19 a pandemic.   Property Managers are now facing an abundance of property related issues resulting from the novel coronavirus. Residents are spending more time at home, converting their homes into offices, and many are self-isolating. New precautionary steps are being implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure smooth day-to-day operations of Condo and Strata Corporations. Here are some of the recommendations being made.

Basic Condominium Protocol

Before diving in, it is important to lay out basic protocol that Property Managers should be implementing at this time. The Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO) states that condos should:

  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers at main doors and elevators.
  • Display signs reminding residents and visitors to:
    • wash hands with soap regularly,
    • cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve. Immediately dispose of tissue in a lined trash can and wash your hands,
    • avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth, and
    • avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Keep objects and surfaces clean and disinfected. Instruct cleaning teams to provide more focus on high-contact surfaces, such as front desk counters, door handles, or common areas.

Taken from: https://www.cmrao.ca/en-US/newsroom/blog/Coronavirus-in-Condos/

Notices to Owners

Property Managers should consider providing notices to tenants regarding the following topics:

  • Provide tips from and website information for the local public health authority, provincial Ministry of Health, and Health Canada, and request that residents comply with all recommendations.
  • Advise that resident should refrain from using the amenities (or close them all together) and minimize the use of the common areas, especially if they have recently travelled and/or exhibit any symptoms such as coughing or fever.
  • Advise that residents practice social distancing measures in common element areas such as lobbies, elevators, and other shared facilities.
  • Outline and communicate procedures for reporting to property management if the resident is in self-isolation or quarantine.
  • Reduce parcel deliveries by highlighting the difference between essential and non-essential items.
  • Remind residents of proper garbage disposal and preventing drain clogs and back-ups resulting from residents spending more time at home.

Service Provider and Contractor Best Practices

Before issuing work with service providers and contractors, Property Managers should consider the following precautions:

  • Discuss what steps are being taken to minimize the chance of exposure for residents, including ensuring that any representatives who have recently travelled to affected areas are not sent to the site.
  • Discuss what measures may be taken if representatives will be entering a unit to perform duties, to address any health concerns of the residents and of the workers.

    *Note that in response to COVID-19, Normac has opted to temporarily suspend ALL interior site inspections until further notice and has provided our clients with alternative solutions.*

  • Consider postponing non-urgent work where appropriate.
  • Discuss with all service providers whether or not any disruption in service is anticipated, including any disruption due to employee absence or supply disruptions.
  • Discuss with onsite staff, such as maintenance staff or concierge, any concerns they have relating to the safety of the workplace and encouraging all workers who feel ill to stay home.
  • Incorporate social distancing measures for over-the-counter communications with onsite staff.
  • Review options and consider business continuity plans in the event of any severe disruptions to the Corporation’s operations as a result of COVID-19.

AGMs and BOD/Council Meetings

One simple approach is to defer any and all meetings to future dates, after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. If the meeting must go on, consider the following:

  • Encourage proxy and electronic voting rather than in-person attendance.
  • If the total number of condo owners is less than the prohibited 50+ gathering, use a venue that is large enough to accommodate the required 2-meter safe distance between attendees.
  • Make hand sanitizers available as well as new pens for completion of ballots and sign-in forms.
  • Post signs with reminders of safety precautions — no handshaking, wash hands or use hand sanitizer, stand apart from other owners and maintain the required 2-meter distance, do not touch your face, etc.
  • Make arrangements for owners to view the meeting on a live video feed.
  • Keep the meeting moving as expeditiously as possible to minimize the duration of the meeting, perhaps offering to answer owner questions by email prior to the meeting to attempt to both reduce in-person attendance and to minimize the duration of the meeting.
  • Hold all BOD / Council meetings via Zoom Video Conferencing.

Taken from: http://www.mondaq.com/canada/Real-Estate-and-Construction/906464/Coronavirus-And-Condominiums-March-12-2020-Update

*Note some of this has been revised to reflect current recommendations from health authorities.

Final Recommendations

It is important to note that the coronavirus is a developing situation which requires an adaptive approach. The number of confirmed cases in Canada are continually rising, it is imperative to follow the latest developments and adjust your building’s protocol as needed. These best practices are to be considered general guidelines – any specific matters should be consulted with a legal firm.

Additional Resources

Normac is taking precautionary measures to protect our staff, clients, and to do our part in preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Read more about our efforts here.

COVID-19: Normac’s Response

COVID19 Normac's Response

*Click here to view Normac’s current COVID-19 Response and Policies. 

March 16, 2020

To our Normac Clients and Partners,

RE:  COVID-19 UPDATE

We appreciate how overwhelmed you must be with the news regarding COVID-19.   We are committed to being both responsive and responsible, navigating these difficult times with the safety of our team and clients at the forefront of our minds and procedures.   We remain focussed on three things:

  1. Ensuring the safety of our employees and clients
  2. Continuing to provide exceptional service to our clients
  3. Supporting local efforts to limit the spread and impact of COVID-19

We do not anticipate any interruption in Normac delivery of services.  We are, however, suspending all interior site inspections until further notice.  We offer an alternative to in-suite site inspections that will allow our appraisers to collect the necessary information in a timely manner.  We will continue to view the exteriors of buildings without entering the premises.

While our physical offices are not open, we continue to serve you with the same high standards and customer service as always.  A significant number of our employees already work remotely, and we are fortunate in that our business allows us to easily transition to a fully remote workforce.  We have the technology and systems in place to continue business as usual.  This makes us confident in our ability to continue providing great service to you and conducting business normally.

That means, among other things:

  • Our Client Services team will remain available for phone calls and emails from 6am PST (9am EST) – 5pm PST (8pm EST).
  • Appraisal reports and appraisal updates will continue to be emailed to all stakeholders with the same frequency and delivery dates as normally scheduled.
  • Standard Insurable Unit Description Outline self-completed forms will be offered as an alternative to in-suite site inspections. An SIUD expert will be available to assist condo boards through the process should any questions arise.

We are committed to serving our clients to the highest standards. Thank you for your patience and your trust in Normac. We are prepared to push through these challenges and put the safety of our Normac team, our clients, and our partners at the forefront of every decision we make. Stay safe and keep healthy.

Sincerely,

Cameron Carter

President

 

Download a copy of this letter. 

How to deal with coronavirus in condos. 

How To Deal With Coronavirus in Condos

coronavirus in condos
Last week, the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a national pandemic. Condominium corporations, directors of the board, and property managers should be on high alert, taking the necessary preventative measures to ensure their properties are safe. It is important to note that the possibility of transmission will always exist, however, can be drastically reduced with good hygiene practice and knowing how to deal with Coronavirus in condominiums.

What Is Coronavirus?

The coronavirus (also known as “COVID-19”) is a virus which symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

As of March 16, Canada has 324 confirmed cases of coronavirus. At the time of writing this, Ontario has the highest number with 145 confirmed, and British Columbia and Alberta are close behind with 73 and 56 reported cases respectively. The contagious nature of this virus means that this number will continue to grow exponentially.

The transmissibility of this virus is much like the common cold. The virus can be passed on from person-to person or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. This is why officials are recommending social distancing to prevent the spread.

Travellers, particularly those who are returning home from Europe, Middle East, and Asia are at the highest risk. Anyone coming into Canada is being told to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor symptoms.

How Does Coronavirus Affect My Condo?

Condominiums house a high number of people living in close proximity to one another with shared common spaces. These shared spaces include elevators, fitness rooms, condo lobbies, etc. The traffic in these areas pose a high risk for contamination, especially when it comes to door handles and elevator buttons.

If you are feeling sick, are returning from travel, or are other wise high risk of infection, it is imperative to self-quarantine as per the Canadian government’s recommendations. As a condo owner, this means remaining within your unit and having people bring necessities to you, or only leaving for medical care.

What Are My Legal Obligations On Behalf Of The Condo Board?

Quite frankly, condo corporations are not fully equipped to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The jurisdiction of this surpasses property management – into the domain of public health and communicable diseases. Rod Escayola writes in Condo Advisor last week that, Condo corporations have a duty to “control, manage and administer the common elements and the assets of the corporation.”  Similarly, boards of directors have a duty to manage the affairs of the corporation. Simply put, condos are there to manage the property, not pandemics.

The corporation can make rules on “the safety, security or welfare of the owners”, however this does not specify how to go about a contagion like coronavirus. In section 117 of the Ontario Condo Act, any activity that is likely to cause bodily harm (in units or common areas) is prohibited. Does this legislation give the authority to quarantine someone in their unit? Not likely, but that does not absolve the board from their social responsibility as leaders for their community.

Josee Deslongchamps, an Ottawa condo manager, provided this very informative notice to owners on the coronavirus. Condo boards could share a notice similar to this, which requests those who are at risk to self-quarantine and refrain from using common property, in a respectful and factual manner. It also communicates what precautions are being taken by the condo corporation to protect owners.

How To Deal With Coronavirus in Condominiums?

It is not expected for condo corporations to have foolproof measures against coronavirus. However, property managers and directors of the board can fulfil their fiduciary duty by taking these basic precautions:
  • Ensure that commonly used common element areas (sanitary facilities, fitness rooms, lobby/garage entrance door handles and elevator call buttons) are kept clean and disinfected with industry appropriate products;
  • Install hand sanitizers in common areas, by the main doors or by the elevators;
  • Post signs reminding owners to be extra diligent when wiping fitness equipment;
  • Remind owners not to use the fitness room, the pool or the amenities if feeling sick;
  • Encourage occupants having travelled to high risk-zones to consider avoiding using the common amenities for 14 days;
  • Encourage occupants/employees to self-quarantine if required;
  • Encourage occupants/employees to report to the corporation should they have been infected by the virus. This could allow the corporation to take early measures;
  • In certain circumstances, it may be worth considering postponing some of your social events… and perhaps even the AGM depending on how things evolve in your areas.  You may want to consult with your legal counsel before you do so.
Taken from Condo Advisor: http://condoadviser.ca/2020/03/coronavirus-in-condos/condo-law-blog-Ontario

Condo boards could also take note of how Italian condo dwellers are keeping their spirits up with music, or how other residents are working out together from their balconies in Seville, Spain.

The Bottom Line

Good hygienic practices go a long way in combatting airborne viruses. Taking proper precautionary measures in your condominium will drastically reduce the spread of coronavirus. In keeping with your community’s policy on Discrimination and Inclusiveness, residents are reminded that acts of racism, xenophobia and other discriminatory behaviours should never be tolerated. A collaborative community effort is vital in effectively managing a pandemic as such.

Additional Resources

CHOA – Preventing Coronavirus: https://www.choa.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/600-014-Preventing-coronavirus.pdf

PAMA – What Do We Know and What Can We Do about COVID-19?: https://www.pama.ca/common/Uploaded%20files/pdfs/Almanac/COVID_19.pdf

ACMO – ACMO Coronavirus Advisory: https://acmo.org/acmo-coronavirus-statement

Normac is also taking precautionary measures to protect our staff, clients, and to do our part in preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Read more about our efforts here.