Category Archives: News

CMHC to Increase Mortgage Insurance Premiums

CMHC is increasing its homeowner mortgage loan insurance premiums effective March 17, 2017. For the average CMHC-insured homebuyer, the higher premium will result in an increase of approximately $5 to their monthly mortgage payment.

“We do not expect the higher premiums to have a significant impact on the ability of Canadians to buy a home,” said Steven Mennill, Senior Vice-President, Insurance. “Overall, the changes will preserve competition in the mortgage loan insurance industry and contribute to financial stability.”

Capital requirements are an important factor in determining mortgage insurance premiums. The changes reflect OSFI’s new capital requirements that came into effect on January 1st of this year that require mortgage insurers to hold additional capital. Capital holdings create a buffer against potential losses, helping to ensure the long term stability of the financial system.

During the first nine months of 2016:

  • The average CMHC-insured loan was approximately $245,000.
  • The average down payment was approximately 8%.
  • The average gross debt service ratio (GDS) was 25.6%. To qualify for CMHC insurance, a homebuyer’s GDS should not exceed 32% of their total monthly household income.
Down payment between 5% and 9.99%
Loan Amount $150,000 $250,000 $350,000 $450,000 $550,000 $850,000
Increase to Monthly Mortgage Payment $2.82 $4.70 $6.59 $8.47 $10.35 $15.98

Based on a 5 year term @ 2.94% and a 25 year amortization 

*Premiums in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are subject to provincial sales tax — the sales tax cannot be added to the loan amount.

Premiums are calculated based on the loan-to-value ratio of the mortgage being insured. The premium can be paid in a single lump sum but more frequently is added to the mortgage principal and repaid over the life of the mortgage as part of regular mortgage payments. Additional details and scenarios are included in the backgrounder below.

CMHC regularly reviews its premiums and sets them at a level to cover related claims and expenses while also reflecting the regulatory capital requirements.

CMHC is Canada’s most experienced mortgage loan insurer. Our mortgage loan insurance enables Canadians to buy a home with a minimum down payment starting at 5%. As a Crown corporation, CMHC is the only mortgage insurer whose proceeds benefit all Canadians.

As Canada’s authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need and offers objective housing research and information to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry.

For additional highlights please see the attached backgrounder.

B.C. budget: New homes get transfer-tax cut

A B.C. budget move designed to open up the Vancouver housing market could stimulate homebuilding in Victoria and improve affordability for buyers.

The province announced changes Tuesday to the property transfer tax, including an exemption from the tax when buying new homes worth up to $750,000.

That change was designed to stimulate the supply side of the housing equation and establish more options, especially in places like Vancouver, which, according to budget documents, has seen single-family homes increase in price between 45 per cent and 70 per cent over the last five years.

The current property transfer tax is set at one per cent on the first $200,000 and two per cent on the remaining price. Buyers of older homes will continue to pay the property purchase tax at current rates.

In Victoria, the effect of the change is likely to be less pronounced, though it should mean an increase in homebuilding activity and easier access to new homes, said Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association.

“This will be a significant improvement in housing affordability,” said Edge. “B.C. has the highest average price in Canada for a home by more than $200,000 so housing affordability is a critical issue. The property transfer tax has been a significant hurdle so a reduction is an improvement.”

A survey of member builders last year pegged the cost of a small basic new home at $562,000 on the West Shore.

Victoria Real Estate Board president Wendy Moreton said the new rules appeared to be aimed at the Vancouver market.

“This will help some buyers but it would have been nice to see some adjustment to the property transfer tax on existing home sales, that’s what we were hoping to see,” she said. “But we can hope that now they’ve made a change, they could make future changes.”

Finance Minister Mike de Jong told reporters he hoped the changes to the property transfer tax will stimulate building and provide more opportunity for first-time buyers to get into the housing market.

A purchaser of a new home worth $400,000 would save $6,000 in property transfer tax, while the exemption means a savings of $13,000 in tax on a new home or condo priced at $750,000.

To get the full exemption, a purchaser must live in the home as a principal residence for one year.

B.C. Real Estate Association chief economist Cameron Muir said the changes were positive, but cautioned it could take some time to see the effect. “It will likely stimulate some new construction, but, unfortunately, for places like Vancouver, major condo projects take many years from inception to completion so the impact of that supply will not be immediate.”

Gord Stewart, senior vice-president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, suggested buyers, scared off by an over-heated market, might start to look at jumping in. “We think [government] has done exactly the right thing. It’s a market-based approach and reducing the cost of a new house is going to encourage more people to get into the market and it will bring some supply on.”

The measure means the province could lose an estimated $75 million in tax revenue. That money is expected to be offset with the addition of a third tier to the property transfer tax — the rate of tax applied to sales of properties valued at more than $2 million will increase to three per cent from the current two per cent.

The government also announced it will collect information to determine who is buying property in B.C. and if foreign buyers are having an inflationary effect. Starting this year, people who buy property will have to identify themselves as Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and if they are not they will need to divulge their citizenship and country of residence. The government stopped collecting that data in 1998.

De Jong would not get into details of what the government might do if the information shows high levels of foreign ownership. It is about getting more information to help explain the sharp rise in prices in some areas of the province, he said.

– See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/b-c-budget-new-homes-get-transfer-tax-cut-1.2174489#sthash.4vYt9g6t.dpuf

Mortgage rules requiring 10% down on Canadian homes over $500K kick in today

Today is the first day you’ll need to put at least 10 per cent down on a home selling for more than $500,000 in Canada.

The new mortgage rules, announced last December by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, are intended to keep housing prices affordable for anyone wishing to enter some of Canada’s hottest real estate markets, such as Toronto and Vancouver.

Buyers can still put down five per cent for homes $500,000 and under. For example, if you want to buy a $750,000 home, you’ll need to have a minimum down payment of $50,000, which is what you get when you add five per cent of $500,000 and 10 per cent of the remaining $250,000.

Homes that cost more than $1 million still require a 20 per cent down payment.

Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, said the new rules target the rapid pace of price growth in red-hot markets without hurting those that are lagging.

“The problem with monetary policy is that it impacts the struggling Calgary market or the just fine Winnipeg market and the overheated Vancouver market in equal amounts,” Soper said.

“If you lower interest rates, you lower interest rates for all. And that’s not what the country needed. This change … is the first attempt to recognize the fact that some parts of the country are in need of a mild tap on the break, while other parts of the country really need to continue to receive stimulus.”

New rules ‘drove traffic’

Toronto real estate agent Sonya Côté said first-time homebuyers were feeling the pressure to put their five per cent down on homes while they still could.

“Coming up with $3,000 or $5,000 or $7,000 more for a down payment to get in there for the first time is a lot of money for first-time buyers,” she said.

The rules change meant Côté was able to sell a row house that hasn’t been renovated, and with no parking, in a week.

“That drove traffic through this place like a circus,” she said of the new regulations. “We had 103 showings, 13 offers and it went for $149,000 over asking.”

The agent predicted real estate traffic will slow now with first-time buyers facing stricter regulations.

More eyes on condos?

Toronto broker Michael Elmenhoff told CBC News he supports the change because of the way home prices have been skyrocketing lately.

“I think it’s a good idea. I’m concerned with the value of properties these days,” he said, adding buyers may have to rethink their objectives moving forward.

“I think we’re going to see more pressure on the lower price condos as a result of that,” Elmenhoff noted.

Soper said real estate markets in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec have been “boisterous” in the first five weeks of the year — but added it’s unlikely that the new mortgage rules are responsible.

“I think it has much more to do with clean sidewalks from a mild winter and low mortgage rates than it does with impending changes that tweak mortgage insurance regulations,” Soper said.

“It’s just not a big enough change to have materially impacted home sales volumes in the country,” he acknowledged.

“We recognize that, specifically in the Toronto and Vancouver markets, we have seen house prices that have been elevated,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said last December.

“We’re not talking about bubbles here, we are talking about ensuring that Canadians take the right approach to investing in a home,” the minister noted.

“We want to make sure we create an environment that protects the people buying homes so they have sufficient equity in their home.”

Analysts predict price gains

(Reuters) – Canadian home prices are set to rise a little over 5 percent this year and 2 percent in 2016 despite a slowdown in activity as the economy weakens, a Reuters poll found.

Canada’s economy shrank in the first three months of the year and quite possibly between April-June as well owing in part to slumping oil prices. House prices have defied this weakness so far and have kept climbing.

The Reuters survey of over 20 analysts predicted home prices would rise 5.2 percent this year, up sharply from a forecast of 3.4 percent in June’s survey.
The latest expectations for 2016 and 2017 have also been revised upwards, to 2.0 and 2.3 percent from 1.3 and 1.7 percent respectively. Canada’s TeranetNational Bank House Price Index was up 1.2 percent in July.

Calling the Canadian housing market “bullet-proof”, Mark Hopkins, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics said: “It seems to not only be defying the odds in terms of surviving the large downturn in the global economy, but even now with gross domestic product contracting, it seems as though existing home prices have accelerated which is a bit strange and counterintuitive.”

A majority of analysts predict a slowdown in home buying despite two rate reductions by the Bank of Canada this year.

“Even though the Bank of Canada is lowering rates, we are going to see a slowdown starting as people find that it is more expensive to buy stuff, and the home renovation activity will begin to slow down,” said David Watt, chief economist at HSBC.

In recent years, the housing market has been an important driver of the Canadian economy. It went in the opposite direction to the U.S. housing market crash and helped Canada brave the worst of the global financial crisis.

While home prices in the United States have begun to recover, in Canada they have been rising unabated ever since and several economists – although not a majority – have long warned of potential correction.

Average home prices have doubled over the past decade fueled by cheap debt, but 13 of 19 respondents said the housing market remained affordable – at least on a national basis, because low interest rates have kept debt service costs under control.

The Bank of Canada estimates the housing market is about 30 percent overvalued and has said it poses a significant risk to consumers overexposed to mortgage debt, especially in the oil-extraction part of the country where last year’s oil price shock and persistent weakness has hit the job market hard.

In July, the Bank brought its benchmark interest rates down to 0.50 percent to dull the sting of plummeting oil prices and prevent a housing market crash.
But that rate cut likely has fueled further house price rises in the already-stretched cities of Toronto and Vancouver.

Poll respondents said both these urban markets have surpassed affordability limits of the average Canadian homebuyer, outside of the condominium sector, where there are vast amounts of new supply still being built.

Some analysts fear a risk of correction, but particularly in these two urban markets, Toronto and Vancouver. Once the U.S. Federal Reserve begins to tighten policy this year, which may take Canadian mortgage rates higher.

“The (Fed) rate hike is clearly going to have an impact on the (Canadian) housing market. That’s guaranteed,” Moodys’ Hopkins said.
“But as long as the Fed continues to be the cautious agent that it is now in moving very slowly, I don’t think there will be any surprises.”
The Reuters poll also showed home building in Canada is expected to remain robust over the next year and average around 180,000 units.

What happens to your credit rating when you miss a mortgage payment?

by RICHARD MOXLEY Contributed to The Globe and Mail –

Excerpted with permission from The Nine Rules of Credit: What Everyone Needs to Know by Richard Moxley, Published by Self-Counsel Press.

Your mortgage payment doesn’t always show up on your credit report, but if you are late on multiple payments, it could affect the interest rate you’re offered from the bank when your mortgage comes up for renewal again.

If you miss three consecutive payments or more in a row, it will lead to foreclosure proceedings, which is when the bank or lender starts the process of legally taking ownership of your property due to the lack of payments. Banks or lenders don’t want to own your home, but if the lender isn’t getting paid, it will try and sell the property in order to reduce its losses. Foreclosure shows up under the public record portion of your credit report.

You may assume that bankruptcy is the worst thing you can do for your credit; however, if you are applying for mortgage financing, going through a foreclosure is the absolute worst thing you can do for your credit. Bad credit can be rebuilt fairly quickly, but very few lenders will look at providing financing for you if you have a previous foreclosure showing up on your credit report, regardless how strong your current credit is.

If you find yourself in a situation where you may not be able to make your mortgage payments, contact your mortgage lender or mortgage agent to find out what can be done. The same thing is true with any creditor.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make a payment to any one of your creditors, it is a good rule of thumb to contact them to see if something can be worked out, especially if you contact them before the due date. I’ve never seen the attitude of pretending it will all go away actually work for anyone.

I understand that despite your best efforts, an emergency may come up, preventing you from being able to make a payment. However, the banks still feel that it is your responsibility to keep track of your accounts and pay your bills on time. Get your head around this rule and you will have a great foundation to always have amazing credit.

Ten obstacles to getting the best mortgage rate

Anyone with a mortgage wants the lowest possible rate. But there’s an array of requirements for snagging the best all-around deal, and some of them are counter-intuitive.

Once people have chosen the term and rate type for their mortgage, they often find that rates for that same term can vary by a percentage point or more. Countless factors can keep borrowers from getting a rock-star deal. Here are 10 of them:

1. Rates vary by province

Ontario usually has the most competitive rates in Canada, partly because it has the greatest number of competitors. People living in the Prairies or the East Coast, for example, often pay one-tenth to two-tenths of a percentage point more than folks in Ontario. Other examples: Home owners in Alberta sometimes have to put down more equity to get the lowest available rates (thanks to larger default risks in that province); borrowers in Manitoba have the cheapest six-month rates; borrowers in Quebec have some of the best 10-year rates.

2. A long rate hold

The further into the future your closing date, the longer the rate guarantee you’ll need. In turn, the higher a lender’s rate hedging costs and the higher your interest rate. The cheapest rates in the market are generally for “quick closes.” That typically means you must complete the mortgage in 30 to 45 days from applying. Applying one month from closing can shave off one-tenth to two-tenths of a percentage point from your rate, but the risk is that rates jump even more while you’re waiting.

3. You’re refinancing

Lenders love to finance purchases. So mortgages for new buyers sometimes have lower rates than mortgages for refinances. What’s more, refinances, which essentially require a whole new mortgage, often have lower rates than mortgage transfers, where you’re switching lenders but the key mortgage terms stay the same.

4. You’ve got an apartment condo or atypical property

Some lenders charge more for high-rise condos, especially in cities where condo markets are arguably overextended. The same goes for cottages, co-ops, hotel condos, former grow-ops, larger multiunit residences and other non-standard structures, which lenders view as higher risk.

5. The property isn’t your full-time dwelling

The cheapest rates in the country rarely apply to income-generating properties that the owner doesn’t live in. These deals are statistically a higher risk for lenders and investors, so expect a higher interest rate.

6. Your credit score isn’t high enough

The magic number is 680. That’s the most common minimum credit score to qualify for the best rates, especially if you have a higher debt ratio or a smaller down payment. But one number isn’t everything. To qualify for the best pricing you also need a two-year track record of managing your credit with no serious delinquencies.

7. You want flexibility

Some of the nation’s lowest rates come with strings attached, such as below-average prepayment privileges. This limits your ability to save interest by making lump-sum extra payments. Instead of prepaying 15 per cent to 30 per cent annually (which few people do anyway) a “no frills” rate might limit you to prepaying 5 per cent or 10 per cent. Restricted mortgages can also impose painful penalties, prohibit you from refinancing elsewhere before your term is up and prevent you from increasing your mortgage without penalty – useful if you buy a new house.

8. Your mortgage is not insured

In many cases, people with smaller down payments – less than 20 per cent – get better rates. That’s because their mortgage must generally be insured. Lenders like insured mortgages because someone else shares the risk of the borrower defaulting.

9. Your mortgage is too big

For lenders, bigger mortgages mean potentially bigger losses on default. This added risk results in rate premiums and stricter lending limits, especially on million-dollar mortgages without at least 25-per-cent to 35-per-cent down payments.

10. Your income is too low

If you’ve just become self-employed, are on probation or you can’t prove one to two years’ worth of stable salaried income, it can cost you. You may also need a bigger down payment. Lenders want less than 40 per cent to 44 per cent of your provable income to go toward debt.

In looking at this list, you may surmise you’ll get the best deal if you have pristine credit, don’t care about mortgage restrictions and are buying a detached urban home in Ontario that’s closing in 30 days.

That all helps, but there’s plenty more that governs mortgage pricing. Step one is knowing how well qualified you are. The stronger you are as a borrower, the more likely you’ll find exceptions to the rate “rules” above.

Bank of Canada lowers overnight rate target to 3/4 per cent

The Bank of Canada today announced that it is lowering its target for the overnight rate by one-quarter of one percentage point to 3/4 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 per cent and the deposit rate is 1/2 per cent. This decision is in response to the recent sharp drop in oil prices, which will be negative for growth and underlying inflation in Canada.

Inflation has remained close to the 2 per cent target in recent quarters. Core inflation has been temporarily boosted by sector-specific factors and the pass-through effects of the lower Canadian dollar, which are offsetting disinflationary pressures from slack in the economy and competition in the retail sector. Total CPI inflation is starting to reflect the fall in oil prices.

Oil’s sharp decline in the past six months is expected to boost global economic growth, especially in the United States, while widening the divergences among economies. Persistent headwinds from deleveraging and lingering uncertainty will influence the extent to which some oil-importing countries benefit from lower prices. The Bank’s base-case projection assumes oil prices around US$60 per barrel. Prices are currently lower but our belief is that prices over the medium term are likely to be higher.

The oil price shock is occurring against a backdrop of solid and more broadly-based growth in Canada in recent quarters. Outside the energy sector, we are beginning to see the anticipated sequence of increased foreign demand, stronger exports, improved business confidence and investment, and employment growth. However, there is considerable uncertainty about the speed with which this sequence will evolve and how it will be affected by the drop in oil prices. Business investment in the energy-producing sector will decline. Canada’s weaker terms of trade will have an adverse impact on incomes and wealth, reducing domestic demand growth.

Although there is considerable uncertainty around the outlook, the Bank is projecting real GDP growth will slow to about 1 1/2 per cent and the output gap to widen in the first half of 2015. The negative impact of lower oil prices will gradually be mitigated by a stronger U.S. economy, a weaker Canadian dollar, and the Bank’s monetary policy response. The Bank expects Canada’s economy to gradually strengthen in the second half of this year, with real GDP growth averaging 2.1 per cent in 2015 and 2.4 per cent in 2016. The economy is expected to return to full capacity around the end of 2016, a little later than was expected in October.

Weaker oil prices will pull down the inflation profile. Total CPI inflation is projected to be temporarily below the inflation-control range during 2015, moving back up to target the following year. Underlying inflation will ease in the near term but then return gradually to 2 per cent over the projection horizon.

The oil price shock increases both downside risks to the inflation profile and financial stability risks. The Bank’s policy action is intended to provide insurance against these risks, support the sectoral adjustment needed to strengthen investment and growth, and bring the Canadian economy back to full capacity and inflation to target within the projection horizon.

Bank of Canada maintains overnight rate target at 1 per cent

The Bank of Canada today announced that it is maintaining its target for the overnight rate at 1 per cent. The Bank Rate is correspondingly 1 1/4 per cent and the deposit rate is 3/4 per cent.

Inflation has risen by more than expected. The increase in inflation over the past year is largely due to the temporary effects of a lower Canadian dollar and some sector-specific factors, notably telecommunications and meat prices. Underlying inflation has edged up but remains below 2 per cent.

The U.S. economy has clearly strengthened, particularly business investment, which has benefitted Canada’s exports. Growth in the rest of the world, in contrast, continues to disappoint, leading authorities in some regions to deploy further policy stimulus. Oil prices have continued to fall, due to both supply and demand developments. In this context, global financial conditions have eased further.

Canada’s economy is showing signs of a broadening recovery. Stronger exports are beginning to be reflected in increased business investment and employment. This suggests that the hoped-for sequence of rebuilding that will lead to balanced and self-sustaining growth may finally have begun. However, the lower profile for oil and certain other commodity prices will weigh on the Canadian economy.

The net effect of these recent developments, together with upward revisions to historical data, is that the output gap appears to be smaller than the Bank had projected in the October Monetary Policy Report (MPR). However, the labour market continues to indicate significant slack in the economy.

While inflation is at a higher starting point relative to the October MPR, weaker oil prices pose an important downside risk to the inflation profile. This is tempered by a stronger U.S. economy, Canadian dollar depreciation, and recent federal fiscal measures. Household imbalances, meanwhile, present a significant risk to financial stability. Overall, the balance of risks remains within the zone for which the current stance of monetary policy is appropriate and therefore the target for the overnight rate remains at 1 per cent.

Information note:

The next scheduled date for announcing the overnight rate target is 21 January 2015. The next full update of the Bank’s outlook for the economy and inflation, including risks to the projection, will be published in the MPR at the same time.

Condo owners advised to check their insurance policies

Leak in their unit could leave them paying strata’s deductible

Zoe McKnight, Vancouver Sun

Government must change the rules so the owner of an individual condo unit doesn’t have to pay the huge insurance deductible on the entire condo complex when something goes wrong in their individual unit, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says.

Those deductibles have risen sharply in recent years. Some Metro Vancouver residents have been shocked to find, after a leak in their unit causes water damage to other parts of the building, that they are required to pay the entire deductible on the strata council’s insurance policy, which can amount to $100,000 or more.

Many condo owners have their own unit policy that covers a portion of the deductible on the strata corporation policy. But some are finding out the hard way their insurance covers only a fraction of the larger deductible – usually about $10,000 – or in some cases, not at all.

“We’ve begun to speak to government officials at a variety of levels to say there’s a problem here,” said Lindsay Olson, vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada for B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“This is becoming a real issue. There’s a shortfall, and I don’t know what a person can do … if it’s a common expense it should be dealt with as such.”

She said it is important to read the strata council’s bylaws to see who can be held financially responsible for damage to common assets.

In the past, accidental damage to common assets was the liability of the entire strata unless a single owner had been negligent.

But recently, strata councils have been changing their bylaws so they can designate an individual responsible if the damage occurred in their unit, even if that person had not been negligent.

Such a change is allowed under provincial law. “It’s been tested in court and it’s been permitted. It’s been occurring over the last few years,” Olson said.

Previously, deductibles for claims made by the strata were in the $10,000 range.

“Over the last number of years what we have seen happening is strata corporations having higher and higher deductibles on the building insurance policy,” Olson said. Often insurers insist on higher deductibles because of multiple claims, especially water damage, in a complex. Some strata corporations have opted for higher deductibles to lower their premiums.

Under the provincial Strata Property Act, the strata corporation is required to review their insurance policy annually and provide a summary to unit owners at the annual general meeting. According to the Insurance Brokers Association of B.C., it’s the unit owner’s responsibility to make sure their own insurance policy dovetails with their building’s policy and strata bylaws.

If a building is well-maintained, the deductible can be small.

“In the old days, deductibles could be $1,000, $2,500 generally, which was well within the strata council’s ability to pay,” said Alan Rees, a longtime insurance broker at KRG. He said water damage is becoming a huge problem in the Lower Mainland due to aging infrastructure.

There are big variations in strata council bylaws and condo owners can’t be forced to take out individual insurance policies.

“It boils down to: read the rules,” Rees said.

The solution is to make sure your own unit insurance covers the strata deductible. Rees said he pays $20 a month for such coverage, which is worth $100,000.

But not all companies will provide that kind of coverage, said Lindsay de Craene of the InsureBC Group.

For example, she said, only two insurers provide such coverage in downtown Vancouver, where there are seven condo complexes carrying a deductible of $100,000, 19 with a $50,000 deductible and one with a $150,000 deductible.

The B.C. Ministry of Housing said it has no plans to revisit the Strata Property Act.

– from October 1, 2012 Vancouver Sun

Undeclared suite insurance can void owner’s insurance

Most landlords unaware they lack proper coverage

Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun

When Raj Bhangu put a secondary suite into his Kitsilano house, he spent the extra $20,000 to do it legally and get the right permits. But he was surprised to find that even though he had home insurance, it would have been null and void had the unthinkable happened – a flood, fire, earthquake or any other unforeseen catastrophe.

That’s because insurance companies will not pay out if homeowners don’t inform them when they put in a secondary suite, something Bhangu found out when his insurance came up for renewal several months after his first tenants moved in.

Almost one quarter of B.C. residents rent out a secondary suite in their home to help with the mortgage – and that’s likely a conservative estimate – but most are unaware they are not covered if their insurance company doesn’t know about it, according to Square One Insurance.

Many people are reluctant to tell their insurer they have a secondary suite because they may not have followed all the rules, said Square One CEO Daniel Mirkovic. It is a widespread misconception that insurance companies pass on information about illegal suites to municipal governments, he said.

“For insurance purposes, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s a permitted or a legal suite,” he said. “In most cases, coverage is available. It might cost you a little bit more, but in the long term it’s well worth it.”

Insurers are only concerned about properly assessing the risk and making sure the customer is being charged at the correct rate, Mirkovic said.

An insurance company would only communicate such information to a government authority under a court order or with the homeowner’s explicit permission, given in writing, Mirkovic said.

Failing to tell the insurance company about a secondary suite is “the absolute worst thing that could happen because they’ll say that you didn’t disclose all of the necessary and pertinent information on the home which would have affected their decision as to whether they would insure the risk or not,” Mirkovic said.

In Kitsilano, Bhangu said many of his neighbours who rent out basement suites don’t know what the rules are.

“If you have an illegal suite, you’re not necessarily going to go and tell your insurance company that … so they just avoid it altogether,” said Bhangu, noting that his insurance went up by about $100 a year when he informed the company of the suite.

Many people tend to think of insurance as something they pay every month and don’t necessarily think to ask the pertinent questions, he added.

“It’s a recurring thing that you hope you’re covered [for the] worst-case scenario.”

Other changes to homes that may affect insurance rates are going from a one-to two-family residence and conversions of garages to coach houses, according to Square One.

Another thing most landlords don’t know is that they can purchase insurance to cover a loss of rental income stemming from damage that requires repairs, Mirkovic said.

– from June 5, 2012 Vancouver Sun