Toronto Flood Insurance What Every Home Owner Need to Know

when the flood waters rise zoomerWritten Zoomer November 2012

You Don’t Think About Insurance Until You Have Problem

It was on a scorching Sunday afternoon in July that I found out how critically important it is to understand the small print in ones  household insurance policy.  Weather has become so intense. That day my neighbourhood was pounded with a whopping 88 mm of rain in just two hours . They call them 100 year storms and the incredible volume of water quickly exceeded the maximum capacity of the sewer system. The only place left for the overflow…my, and my neighbours’ basements.

On my residential street alone, 17 homes were affected, many with as much as 4-6 inches of storm/sewer water – the damage tally throughout the neighbourhood was 200+ homes. Once the water receded,  it was time to fully assess the damage…  and boy was there damage:  flooring, drywall, furniture, appliances, electronics and personal belongings, all exposed to water contamination.

As a homeowner,  my first reaction was to tackle this problem head on, by myself.  But stop and think! What I was facing was a bacterial cocktail of storm runoff and (and for some poor neighbours) raw sewage.  Some residents took on the cleanup themselves and suffered health issues.  My approach was less ambitious and more prudent.  I called my insurance company.

The next day it seemed every neighbourhood street had half a dozen restoration company trucks lined up on it.  I didn’t know so many existed! Their job?  Remediate the flood damage.  Note: take pictures of any damage before they start the tear out, as they this evidence will back up your claim.   A crew of three ripped out all my flooring, drywall, furniture, appliances and any items exposed to water contamination.  The next stage was spent drying out the basement and it took five industrial fans, as well as a heavy duty dehumidifier operating for 72 hours continuously, to remove the moisture.

As neighbours, our street licked our wounds and discussed insurance policies, and what I found was a surprising range in coverage. For some less fortunate, this meant zero coverage for sewer backup, while for others they were covered for  $10,000, some at $25,000, and  a minority had unlimited coverage. My family had $25,000, and I’m glad we did. Considering our bill for clean up alone came in at $5,000 (one neighbour’s remediation clean up came in at $18,000) this only left a maximum of $20,000 to rebuild the basement, and replace furniture and appliances.

Some geographic areas and cities are more prone to flooding, therefore, as you would expect,  insurers’ premiums range in their assessing sewer backup coverage. Storms happen. From my first-hand  experience, it’s wise to review your homeowner insurance policy  to ensure you are covered for whatever lurks beyond the horizon.

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