BCIN? Difference Between Designer, Architect and Engineer According to the Ontario Building Code

As I meet with new clients and friends every day, I commonly hear the same questions “What is a BCIN?” “When is a BCIN required?” etc. Here is some clarification to the public on some important issues about choosing a company to provide you with plans. Please note that this information applies only in the Province of Ontario.

What is a BCIN?

A BCIN stands for ‘Building Code Identification Number’. This number is assigned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, to successful applicants who have completed the requirements outlined in Division C Section 3.2 of the Ontario Building Code. There are two distinct types of BCIN number, individuals & firms. Individuals are people who have completed the exams and have received a BCIN from the MAH; however, they do NOT carry any insurance. As a result this limits the types of projects that the person can do. Firm BCIN’s on the other hand MUST carry valid liability insurance, and depending on the amount of designs fees that a firm charges in a year will dictate the required amount of insurance coverage they must have. Insurance is expensive but it is there to protect you so avoid working with companies who do not have it. For most people, a home is your single largest asset; do you really want to get plans from someone without insurance?

How do I know if I am choosing a registered company?

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing maintains a database of all registered BCIN holders. The registry is available through a system called QUARTS. Once on the Public Registry, this system allows you to search by the individual’s name, the company’s name or the BCIN #. Once you have found a business or individual, it will bring you to a page with details on the company. It lists the mailing address of the business & contact details. At the bottom it should also show the Registration as ‘Registered Designer’ and the Status as ‘Current’. If it shows up as ‘lapsed or expired’ then this means that they either do not have valid insurance for that year, or that they are late in filing their paperwork.

Do I need an architect or engineer for my project?

Probably not! There have been massive changes to the system in the last few years, opening the doorway for a new title; designers. Architects & Engineers are NOT required for any project less than 600m² (6,458 sq.ft.) and less than 4 storeys. For most residential and small commercial projects, you do NOT need an architect or an engineer. However, and this is important, if the project involves severe structural modifications, an engineer may be requested by the municipality to review the plans. On this note, there is a BCIN exam which will supersede this requirement! If your design company is a registered company in the Category of ‘Building Structural’ then they can complete the plans.

When do I need a BCIN ‘stamp’ for my project?

Depending on the type of project you may or may not need a BCIN number on your drawings. You do not need a BCIN number if the project relates to the construction of a house that is owned by the person who produces the drawings or if it relates to a farm building less than 3 storeys. There are a few other instances, but these are probably the two most important. Often I hear homeowners ask for just the drawings to submit for permit (no stamp). This is allowed, but as the homeowner you must be knowledgeable of the drawings (after all, you are claiming that you have produced them). It is okay to admit to the municipality that you hired someone to draw them for you, but at the end of the day you will be responsible to ensure that the drawings meet code. If the city has approved your building permit based on the drawings and you proceed to build your project to the drawings only to later find out that there is a problem, you will be on the hook to make any necessary adjustments to pass inspection. Most companies will charge from $200 to $2000 for the use of their BCIN number on the drawings. This may seem expensive but it is the security blanket that will keep you safe and ensure that your drawings meet code! I also personally apply for the permits and handle all the paperwork on my client’s behalf when I charge this fee; which most people prefer as nobody likes to stand in line for half a day to submit paperwork to the City.

I hope that this will help to clarify any questions you may have had regarding the requirements of having someone produce building permits for your project. I look forward to working with you, and if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Garage Insurance – Used Car Dealers and Repair Shops Watch Those Symbols

Garage insurance is a much misunderstood policy form. Many professional insurance agents are confused about exactly when to use it and more importantly exactly how. You can use a garage liability policy to protect a used car dealer, often referred to as dealer's insurance, or you can use this same form to protect an automated repair shop or to set up body shop insurance. The trick is to know the symbols. If you own a car dealership or an automotive repair shop and are purchasing insurance for your business, it is advisable that you find an agent who specializes in the garage insurance form to help you with this purchase so you do not end up with the wrong Form and possibly find yourself without coverage after a large loss.

As I mentioned earlier, both types of businesses, auto repair and or body shops and used car dealers both need the garage policy. But exactly what kind of operations are covered in these policies is driven by the symbols shown on the policy. This is very important. If your business is automated repair or body work but your policy is set up with symbols that would apply to a car dealership, you could find yourself without coverage in the event of a liability loss.

So how do you know if you have the correct symbols and then the correct form? Pull out your garage policy and look at the first page. Beside each type of coverage, usually to the left, there will be a least one two digit number between 21 and 31. These symbols will describe what is protected by the coverage shown next to that symbol. Here is a list of the most common symbols and what each one protects:

Symbol 21 Any auto
Symbol 22 All owned autos
Symbol 23 Owned private passenger autos only
Symbol 24 Owned autos other than private passenger
Symbol 25 Owned autos subject to no fault laws
Symbol 26 Owned autos subject to Uninsured Motorists law
Symbol 27 Specifically described autos
Symbol 28 Hired autos only
Symbol 29 Non-Owned autos used in the Garage Business
Symbol 30 Autos Left for Service / Repair / Storage
Symbol 31 Autos on Consignment

As you have probably figured out, if you are an automobile dealer and you have symbol 30 on your policy, you would find yourself without coverage. So why not just put symbol 21 on all coverage? Well, since code 21 is the broadest coverage, you would have to pay for this insurance policy and in some cases you might be purchasing insurance protection that you did not really need.

Take some time to look at your policy carefully and review the symbols for each line of coverage to make sure that they are appropriate for the work you do. If you need help with this process, consult your agent. If you agent does not specialize in businesses needing garage policy, ie dealers insurance and auto repair shop insurance, then find one who does. This protection is just too important to leave up to an agent who is practicing on the job learning on your policies.

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Real Estate Agents – Strengths and Weaknesses in Listing Commercial Property Today

In this commercial property market there are some real pressures and challenges that confront a lot of property owners when they want to sell or lease their property. They need the help of top agents that really understand the local area, to help in moving the property.

Contrary to popular belief, it is in markets like this that good agents can make a lot of commission. It all comes down to the way in which they package their services and help their clients.

In simple terms, top agents and experienced agents can do very well today providing them work the local area and their database. A good database will always get you through any market conditions and frustrations. In saying, that I am a big believer that a salesperson's database should not be delegated to the office administrative staff to control.

Every salesperson should take ownership of their database; In this way they will get good activities from it. In this market you need leads that you can do something with. When a database is passed over to the administrative staff to control, the inevitable result is inaccurate and old data. The database soon becomes redundant. The salesperson does not keep it up to date.

Become Change Agents

So we are the 'agents of change' when it comes to helping our property clients an owners get results in this market. We should know how to attract the right people to every property listing that we take on. Exclusive listings are more important in today than ever before. Some top agents will not take on 'open listings' for the very reason that they are a waste of time and effort.

When you know the drawbacks of the industry and the listings today, you can offer the clients that you serve some solid solutions. So what are the drawbacks? Here is a list of some of the larger ones:

  1. The time that it takes to sell or lease a property can be longer today. Every client has to be conditioned for the best price or rent so the time on market is not lengthened. The first few weeks of every marketing effort are the most important. Position the property correctly to get the best inquiry in this time.
  2. High prices and high rents will achieve nothing. The price or rent for the property should be optimized for inquiry. You have to do more with less when it comes to marketing and inspecting of properties.
  3. A larger number of competitive properties can frustrate your marketing efforts and time on market. Check out these properties before you do anything with your listing.
  4. Buyers and tenants are slower to inquire, inspect the property, and then make a decision. Your skills with each stage of the listing should be optimized. Hone your skills accordingly.
  5. Limited finance can put some 'brakes' on the larger deals. Find out where your prospects can get finance from and what the criteria of approval may be.

Whilst these may be drawbacks in the market, they are also opportunities for agents that can get focused and organized. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

Are you a solution provider in this commercial real estate market? Top agents are just that. You can be too.

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