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Cheaper data plans and air passenger bill of rights: CBC’s Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

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Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday.

Are cheaper data plans finally here?

Does $30 a month for one gigabyte of data sound like a deal? Canada’s big three telcos have each agreed to offer at least one plan at that price. The CRTC came to the agreement with Bell, Rogers and Telus after ordering the companies to fill the need for low-cost data-only plans. Critics have said the plans telcos originally proposed fail to meet the data needs of low-income people in Canada.

Going green this Christmas

It turns out the season of giving is also the worst time for the environment. It’s estimated that Canadians toss out 25 per cent more trash over the holidays. But there are ways to have a greener Christmas. Some tips include opting for the plainest wrapping paper, reusing bows and ribbons and avoiding glitter.

A lot of the products Canadians buy over Christmas will wind up in the trash. (Shutterstock)

Call for medical implants registry

Is your medical device registered? A growing number of countries are promising to do better to track devices like pacemakers and artificial hips after CBC’s Implant Files investigation. The international series (including our story on breast implants) revealed that tens of thousands of medical devices were approved for sale with little scientific evidence. In Canada there is only a registry for replacement joints and even that is not mandatory in all provinces. Advocates are now calling for that to change.

Facebook knows a lot about you

Even more than you think. A new report in the New York Times alleges Facebook gave some companies, including the Royal Bank of Canada, access to users’ private messages without their consent. RBC disputes the reporting, but it raises questions about how much information Facebook gets from your account, including your activity outside the platform.

The New York Times reported that Facebook gave some companies more extensive access to users’ personal data than it has previously revealed. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Lost baggage? You could be entitled to compensation

But only if Canada’s proposed passenger bill of rights passes. The federal government just tabled the legislation. Regulations would include compensation for lost luggage and between $400 and $1,000 for delays, depending on why and how long you’re left waiting. One consumer advocate says the new bill of rights is missing an ombudsperson to review passenger complaints.

Transport Canada’s new regulations would establish a sliding scale of compensation for flight delays. (Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

What else is going on?

A new survey says most Canadian employees are ready to quit their jobs. Among 1,001 Canadians and 1,000 Americans surveyed, 37 per cent said they were either actively or casually looking for a new job, and another 36 per cent said they’d consider a new position if recruited.

You should use cash to buy legal cannabis, according to Canada’s privacy watchdog. Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien says avoiding using credit cards will prevent the collection of personal information. Some Canadians have been barred for life from entering the United States after admitting to using cannabis.

Health Canada is taking steps to restrict the amount of alcohol allowed in sugary premixed drinks. The agency says the drinks are becoming a growing risk to public health, especially for young people.

This week in recalls

These cauliflower, red leaf lettuce and green leaf lettuce products could be contaminated with E. coli; these newborn snowsuits could pose a choking hazard; this pre-lit artificial pine tree with white lights could pose a fire hazard; this concentrated cleaner has a child-resistant cap that may not function as required; this fabric book could pose a choking hazard for small children; this bedside fire alarm and clock could fail to operate and fully alert consumers to a fire; these wooden toy planes in red and blue could pose a choking hazard to young children; these fish fryers could pose a burn hazard; these baby girls’ running shoes have a hook and loop fastener that may detach and could pose a choking hazard for young children; this propane conversion kit could pose a risk of exposure to carbon monoxide.

Marketplace wants to hear from you

We want to hear about your experience with short-term rental platforms like Airbnb as a guest, host or neighbour. Email us at marketplace@cbc.ca. While we know these platforms are international, we are focusing only on Canadian stories right now.

It’s shopping season and we need your help. We’re on the hunt for Canada’s worst sale! Ever spotted a sale price higher than the original price? Items on sale all out of stock? Does the company use their pricing to make you believe you’re getting a better deal than you actually are? We want to hear about it! Send us your story at marketplace@cbc.ca.

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Real Estate

Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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