Water Damage Feed

The Real Story on Insurance and Who is Responsible to Pay Flood or Water Damage

If you suddenly find yourself heading down the street in a lifejacket  or find yourself thankful that your local community has boats to perform commuter rescues, you've probably lived through a flood.

 

After the rain stops pouring, the only thing left to do is cleanup.

Yesterday, Toronto was hit with massive rainfall totaling over 90mm. This exceeds the regular monthly rainfall for Toronto by 20mm!

 

Last month we saw Alberta struggle with disastrous flooding, and the cleanup is still going on. Right about now, many people are wondering where they can turn to for help, and trying to see who can pay for the damage - it's not always easy to figure out.

Who is Responsible for the Damage?

Before we can answer that question the exact source and reason for the damage has to be determined.

Call your insurance company and report the damage to them.

Even if you aren't sure if you want to make a claim, make them aware and get their advice and feedback first.  This will help you make the best decision for you and understand consequences and benefits. There is no good answer to whether or not you should claim because it depends on many factors, but at the very least by calling your insurer and letting them know you are reaching out to get some guidance and information, it starts you on the right track. Insurance professionals are knowledgeable and are there to help you, you don't need to figure everything out alone.  For my insight on the question of whether or not you should claim, you can check this article here to help you make a decision.

Flood vs. Sewer Back Up vs. Infiltration

Water Damage is not a straight forward coverage. Water can come from many places and stem from many sources.

In today's The Star, they wrote an article with the following question:

"If your basement is flooded during a storm, are you covered for losses caused by water damage?"

Great question, unfortunately, the answer is never straight forward. The article suggests that it would be sewer back up to cover this, but the reason for flooding of a basement is not always a sewer back up, it could be as a result of infiltration, or even actual "flooding".

You may even have damage coming from the roof which is handled differently by various insurers, some call it "above ground water", sewer back up also may cover it, and if it's simply due to rain, and not a backed up drainage system, its your policy form that has to respond.

What do all these different water related terms mean? 

The easy answer will come by a quick phone call to your insurance representative or broker.

Water is a complicated coverage, you do not need to figure it out alone.

Some people might define Flood as being caused by the overflow of a body of water,  in Toronto's storm  are Sewer back up could mean the backing up of a sewer, but lets not forget the overflow of a drainage system. Infiltration could mean water trickling in from a downpour of water - with colossal damages and massive rains like the ones Toronto just had - people throw a lot of terms around.

Every insurance company has different coverages, many of them are optional - which ones do you have? The answer to this question becomes very important during a situation like a massive downpour which causes "flooding".

The cause of the damage is what the insurance company is going to be looking at.

 

The city of Toronto responded well to the situation online,  posting safety tips and help advice during the rainfall and also by listing how people could make claims through them.

Will the City of  Toronto pay for water damage?

If the reason your property was damaged is as a result of poor maintenance of the city systems , according to this City of Toronto Site, you may meet the criteria to put a claim against the city. Make sure and check this out as an option. Keep in mind processing may take longer wait times, however it's worth investigating.

 

Finally, we always focus on the damages and losses as we try and protect our home and families.

Prevention Pays - What can you do for the future?

  • The city of Toronto offers up to $3,200 to homeowners who install flood protection devices through its basement flooding protection subsidy program.
  • Some insurance companies, like The Guarantee Company of North America help their clients take preventative measures and offer similar programs where if you install a water detection device, they may help cover the costs and even give you a discount! 

Staying Safe

On a final note, it was nice to see this tweet go out during the chaos reminding us all of the important things in life - helping each other and keeping each other safe.

Wishing all those effected from the storms safety - remember that a little help makes all the difference!

Stay safe!

 

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*Please note that insurance coverage varies from state to state or province to province, the information in this article and on this site is given to serve as a information to empower consumers, and as a bouncing board to lead to a discussion with a licensed broker or agent that can review your specific needs and explain various coverage options to you. Every insurance company has their own policy wording, in all cases the policy wording will take precedence over any blog discussions or examples. Empower yourself with information, so you know the questions to ask, and take charge of your insurance to save money!

Water, Flooding and Power Failures - What You Can Do To Deal With The Damage

The situation in Toronto on Monday was extraordinary. As of midnight 90mm of rain had fallen, with the total rainfall expected to reach about 100mm. According to the CBC, this exceeds Toronto's monthly rainfall by about 30mm, all in one day.

You can check out some of the images on CBC's website:

Screen of Slide Show from CBC

Commuters were stranded for hours, some rescues on the highway were carried out by boat, and property was damaged everywhere. The weather advisory is over, but the damage and chaos as Torontonians try and recover from this rainfall has just begun.

Many people are wondering if they should make insurance claims, others may be questioning what is covered click here for some tips and information to help make these tough decisions.

Affected by the Toronto Flooding? Here are some things you can do immediately :

  • Let's talk about Rot and Mold-Is it Insurance to the rescue or Are you out of luck?
  • Water - Vital to life, but a potential hazard to your home. 
  • - See more at: http://www.milasblog.com/myinsurance/2012/05/montreal-region-massive-sewer-back-up-water-damage.html#sthash.j1uB4iDP.dpuf

     The City of Toronto issued a statement including the points below:

    In the event of a flooded basement:

    • Call the City of Toronto at 311 to report a blocked basement drain or sewer back-up, or for information or assistance with a blocked drain, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. During this extreme weather event residents should expect high call volumes. Calls will be answered by the first available agent.


    • Call your insurance company as soon as possible to report property damage caused by flooding.(If you wonder

    • Be mindful of your health and safety when cleaning up a flooded basement - do not stand in flood water, call a professional for assistance. More information about basement flooding is available on the City of Toronto’s website at http://www.toronto.ca/water. .


    How to report a power outage:
    • Call Toronto Hydro-Electric System’s Lights Out number at 416-542-8000.

    During an outage:
    • Unplug or turn off all appliances to avoid possible damage when power resumes.
    • Turn off water to the clothes washer and dishwasher if they are in use when the power goes out.
    • Leave a light or radio on so you will know when power is restored.
    • When power has been restored, check all fuses to ensure that none have been blown, before calling Toronto Hydro.
    • Plug in only the most essential appliances first, and wait 10 to 15 minutes to give the electrical system time to stabilize before connecting everything else.

    Food Safety:
    During a power failure, food kept in the refrigerator or freezer may become unsafe to eat. The following tips will help ensure food is stored safely in the event of a power outage:
    • Keep your refrigerator door closed to maintain the temperature inside. Without power, the refrigerator section will keep foods cool for four to six hours - if the door is kept closed.
    • Throw out perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and leftovers that have been at temperatures above 4°C for more than two hours.
    • Keep your freezer door closed to maintain the temperature inside. Without power, an upright or chest freezer that is completely full will keep food frozen for about 48 hours - if the door is kept closed. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for about 24 hours.
    • Foods that have thawed in the freezer may be refrozen if they still contain ice crystals or are at 4°C or below - evaluate each item separately.
    • Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but food will remain safe to eat.

    Water damage is serious and it can create major health risks, and reduce the value of your home. Let your insurance advisor help you make the right decision. Isn't that why you deal with a broker? - See more at: http://www.milasblog.com/myinsurance/2012/05/montreal-region-massive-sewer-back-up-water-damage.html#sthash.j1uB4iDP.dpuf
    Water damage is serious and it can create major health risks, and reduce the value of your home. Let your insurance advisor help you make the right decision. Isn't that why you deal with a broker? - See more at: http://www.milasblog.com/myinsurance/2012/05/montreal-region-massive-sewer-back-up-water-damage.html#sthash.j1uB4iDP.dpuf


    If you are insured with Ogilvy Insurance, you can find information to report your claim here.

    Stay Safe Toronto Friends!

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    To claim or not to claim: Torrential Rains Sweep the Montreal Region Causing Massive Sewer Back Up & Water Damage

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    Water Damage claims poured  following a flash rain storm which caused chaos in the streets and homes in the Montreal Area. The West Island and South Shore regions were the hardest hit as people had to wade through water on what are normally clear streets. Cars drove through rivers, and low lying areas were hit hard as masses of water poured down the hills in areas like lower Westmount.

    Aviva Canada issued an announcement advising that they had called in their Catastrophe teams to respond as people discovered their basements flooded as the result of the afternoon downpour.

    When do you make a claim?

    Continue reading "To claim or not to claim: Torrential Rains Sweep the Montreal Region Causing Massive Sewer Back Up & Water Damage" »


    Let's talk about Rot and Mold - Is it Insurance to the rescue or are you out of luck?

    One of the most difficult things we face as brokers is when a client calls us for help with a situation or perceived emergency, and we have to tell them something is not covered.

    In life, we all like to know that someone has our back. When something goes wrong there's someone there to help us. 

    Your insurance policy becomes that "someone" when something sudden and accidental happens to your home, car or other insured property. 

    When you deal with a broker, the expectation to have someone who will be responsive and help is even higher. You are not only dealing with an insurance company, you're dealing with a trusted advisor, someone who has the experience to know how to help you when you have an emergency. Unfortunately, in some cases,  like when dealing with rot or mold, or the natural deterioration that takes place over time,  even your insurance will not respond.

    You call your representative, you've suddenly become aware of a horrible problem - mold in the walls, or rot under the floor...you think you will have some support - but brokers aren't miracle workers. All we can do is advise you what your policy covers. In any policy that I know of, rot and mold is not covered.

    Why?

    Rot and Mold fall under exclusions in your policy wording.

    There are references in most insurance contracts to items that are not insured.  The nature of insurance is to protect you from sudden and accidental loss. If you think about the length of time it takes for rot and mold to take hold, neither of these things are sudden and although they may result from an accident, in the majority of cases, with few exceptions, they result from unattended repair over time.  Most policies contain an exclusion that reads somewhat like this:

    "We do not insure water damage caused by continuous or repeated discharge or overflow of water whether the insured was aware of such discharge or not"

    or/and

    "We do not insure gradual damage caused by wear and tear, gradual deterioration, rust, corrosion, dampness, wet or dry rot, fungi or spores OR repeated damage to property."

    It's a tall list of things that can go wrong and not be covered, but these are all important considerations for any homeowner. (Note that this is but two areas of a long list of exclusions on all homeowner policies - it is important to find out what your contract lists specifically).

    What can you do to protect yourself?

    Example of a stain appearing on a floor - indicative of rot.You need to start keeping your eyes open for the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle signs of trouble.

    In every case I have ever handled where we see instances of  Rot and Mold, two things happen.

    1. The homeowner is shocked and distressed, suddenly hit with overwhelming cost, and the surprise that its not insurable. They can not believe the level of damage hidden in the walls or floors. They usually don't feel they had any indication of the nature of the problem.

     

     

    Under the floor boards2. We usually send people in to investigate the loss - its part of the process in making a claim.  When we look at pictures taken during this investigation, we usually clearly see the signs were there. Rot 2 Yet individuals did not ever notice them. I think it is because in the busy lives we lead, we just don't have the time to focus in on these things, we hear a drip, we don't imagine its destroying our outer walls, or our floors. We just think it's a drip. We, as individuals need to start paying closer attention.

     

     

    What can you do?

    It's all in the details, become aware of what is going on in your home. Realize that anything out of the ordinary can point to something serious. Stop things in their tracks while they are still small problems. You never know what is lurking underneath the surface.

     

    Some water damage advice to help control or prevent rot or mold:

    • If an area is damp, make sure you install proper ventilation. Try and determine why the area is damp, think about the effects that continuous dampness could have and be proactive. Money is tight everywhere, no one wants to take on added expense, but in reality the long term effects of not responding to situations like these are far costlier on all levels and also can put your health and safety at risk. Monitor the humidity levels in your home, between 30% and 50% is a fair range.
    • When materials in your home start to change color, or wood or paint start to buckle - this is not just something that's happening for no reason. Water is often the cause.
    •  If you have water damage, attend to fixing the source of the problem quickly.  According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, some types of mold can grow in as little as 24 hours.
    • If you see damage somewhere that doesn't seem to be remotely associated with a source of water - don't disregard this - be concerned.  Investigate what is happening before damage starts to spread. If you catch something right away, it might be covered by your insurance because it will never get to the point of being repeated, or gradual. Seek professional advice.
    • When you are purchasing a new home, make sure that you hire a qualified and experienced building inspector to take humidity tests of the walls at the property. We have seen several cases first hand where inspectors simply did not investigate far enough and people who have purchased new homes end up with massive reconstructions due to hidden rot and mold issues. This is the worst kind of case, when the person affected wasn't even in a position to know about the issues, and yet they get stuck with the bill.  I have a client right now who is one year into the repair work and paying thousands of dollars in insurance simply because they did not detect the problem prior to purchase. Their inspector let them down, but they are the ones stuck with the bill. Invest in a thorough home inspection, I can not tell you enough how important it is to uncover things before you make your purchase.

    This is the best we can do for you as brokers on this issue: offer you advice, explain what your policy covers or excludes and try and help you be proactive in prevention. Anything beyond that is outside our mandate and ability. 

    When there is an injustice on the insurance company's side - we will go to bat for you. If you need help settling a claim, and you need someone on your side - that's what we are here for. We do what we can within the limits of coverage of the insurance contract. Unfortunately, on the issue of things that are not covered even with the best broker, you will not be able to receive coverage for something that is excluded from the contract.

    Working together to be proactive, that's the best advice we can give. With water damages on the rise, I am sure we have all heard of issues, what has your experience been?

    What about those of you who have had a claim denied, did you think your broker let you down when they had to explain the insurer denying a claim?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Water - Vital to life, but a potential hazard to your home.

    Nothing beats a fresh glass of cool water after a work out, or on a hot summer's day.

    Westmount water stream park quebec

    Water is key to our vitality, and yet, when it comes to home insurance and property damage, water is a whole other issue.

    Water gets into our homes and apartments from various sources: appliances, leaks in pipes, storms, weight of snow, and more. When the temperatures start to drop, water freezes bringing more opportunity for damage to our homes in the heating season.

    We can all think of various examples of situations where water damage can occur, but recently  we have noticed more and more calls coming in for one very specific water related issue : Mold.

    Mold thrives in humid places, it likes to hide in darkness - and because of this, very often people may not notice it for some time.

    A dark hallway wood antique westmount quebec

    Mold is dangerous for your health. Once mold has developed, it is extremely difficult to treat and get rid of and very costly.

    Did you know that Mold damage is not covered by insurance?  Many people think that damage from mold is covered because it originates (usually) with a humidity or water leakage problem. However, it is important for you to note that insurance is for sudden and accidental losses - and there is nothing sudden about mold. In order for mold to grow, it must have humidity, but also time. Gradual damage is not covered by most insurers. Overall, over the past several years, it is also now a specified exclusion with most insurance companies - for all of the above reasons.

    How can you avoid this issue?

    When you notice a leak or damage in your home that is caused by water, don't just treat the leak, this wont remove the water from the materials around it. Fixing the leak or damage won't remove the humidity - mold needs this humidity to thrive. Always remember to dry out any areas effected by water damage or leakage. If you are inclined to make a claim for something, the sudden or accidental discharge of water is something that may be covered depending on the source and your insurance company.

    Get some advice from a professional as soon as you see signs of water.  Sometimes we may repair the broken pipe and not realize that water has sunk down the walls, or soaked into floor boards.  This is where mold will find an opportunity and unfortunately due to the nature of mold itself  (it is is not sudden or accidental), you will not be covered.

    We had a case recently of a client who purchased a new home. They paid quite a bit of money to have the home inspected, and assumed everything was verified. Getting a clean bill of health on the home, they proceeded with the purchase. Not long after taking possession, they discovered dampness on one of the inside walls of the home. They contacted the vendor, and the vendor

    Continue reading "Water - Vital to life, but a potential hazard to your home." »


    Sunny Days Are Not All Bright - Flooding & Water Through the Eyes of the Insurance Company.

    As the weather turns warmer and we set our sights on the hot days of summer there is an issue that we often forget about: the rising potential for water damage. 

    In the insurance claims world, sunny days don't always mean good ones. As the temperature rises snow melts, rainfall increases and water levels rise. There are a myriad of problems that arise pushing us to turn to our insurance for help.

    One of the issues that we see a lot of in the spring months is flooding.  Naturally, if you or I think of floods, we think water. When we think water, we think water damage.  "Didn't that broker say we had water damage? "

    Unfortunately, the insurance companies don't see things as simply as we do. Any insurance policy is based on a contract.  Within that contract, the wording of the coverages and/or exclusions become critical to determining if and how a loss or claim will be paid.  Newsflash: Flooding is not covered as water damage.

    What can I do about Floods?

    In regards to flooding, there are very few companies in Canada who will offer flood insurance. The Insurance Bureau of Canada does not include coverage for floods in their base wordings, therefore it really becomes an exception to find an insurer who will offer flood coverage

    If this coverage is important to you, you need to speak to your broker or insurer and ask them if they have some solutions to offer. Never allow yourself to think that because you were told you had "the best policy available on the market"  it covers things like flood.

    You would be surprised at some of the exclusions that the "top of the line, VIP company" policies have.

    We are fortunate to represent some of the top insurers and VIP insurers, and in a few cases - like with  water damage they may exclude what other companies cover. It is a matter of offering coverages they think the majority of their clients would need.  If you have concerns, its really important to review. We have one specialty insurer who will offer this coverage at Ogilvy. We also see many carriers who exclude this coverage - including many of the VIP carriers.  This Insurance Bureau of Canada Video is a great generalized overview of water damage and exclusions/coverages. So if it is important to you, please get informed. It is your home and you do not want any unnecessary surprises!

    So, what is covered?

    In regards to water damage, there is no simple answer, since most companies chose to exclude or cover damage via specific clauses which, if even available, you would have to request to add to your policy.

    Please ask the questions below, and take ownership of your protection. With water damage risks, it pays to be informed.

    What to ask about if you want to check what the extent of the water damage coverage is on your policy:

    What are the exclusions on my policy that pertain to water damage?

    • Does my policy cover flood? Excluded by most insurers, a select few can offer it. Find out if your insurer is one of them. You normally have to apply for the coverage and have it "added" on to your policy.
    • Does my policy cover water damage resulting from damage from burst pipes, heating systems or air conditioners? This is usually covered on a comprehensive homeowner policy with certain conditions. You will want to make sure your policy is ALL RISK or ComprehensiveNamed perils, broad forms or Fire and Extended coverage policies may not cover this.
    •  Does my policy cover water that comes up from the sewer system? This is usually excluded in all basic policies. It can however be added via a water damage extension. Sometimes the extension covers water that comes from above and below ground, other times it requires two add-ons: Above AND Ground/Surface Water. This is one of the most important clauses to inquire about. It also often includes limitations of coverage and can often be sold in increments of $5000. Note that the clean up from water entering your hoem from a sewer back up often requires a minimum of $10,000 for clean up alone. There is a lot to consider with this coverage. VIP carriers often include it in the wording. Every policy is different in this regard.
    • Does my policy cover damage if I am running a bath and the water overflows everywhere? All Risk or Comprehensive policies will normally cover this as "accidental escape of water from within a plumbing system" however, you want to make sure that you have this kind of policy. A Named Perils policy will not cover this.
    • Is there water damage covered on my rental property, or vacant home? Usually policies that cover this type of home exclude the coverage.  Some carriers may be able to offer something via an endorsement or addition, but in general it is excluded.
    • Is water infiltration covered on my policy? Most insurers will offer coverage for this type of water damage upon your request (it is not automatic).  However some prominent VIP insurers actually exclude this coverage. 

    As you can see, the specifics of water damage vary from policy type to insurance company.  It is really important to ask and inform yourself about what your specific package includes so that if you do hear that water coming into your home or see that puddle on your floor, you know exactly where you stand.

    Now that you've taken the worry out of water damage you can focus on the sunny days ahead!

     

    Some additional Information on Water Damage from the Ogilvy & Ogilvy Blog

    Continue reading "Sunny Days Are Not All Bright - Flooding & Water Through the Eyes of the Insurance Company." »