Flood damage claims in Ontario and Alberta mean higher premiums for sewer backup coverage for TD Meloche Monnex customers
Tara Walton / Toronto Star
An abandoned car sits under an overpass along the East Mall, near Dundas Street West, July 8, 2013.
The flash flooding caused by the huge Toronto thunderstorm a few weeks ago has people taking a closer look at their insurance coverage for sewer backup.
If your policy is up for renewal, you’ll discover if you’re a TD Meloche Monnex customer that your basic coverage has been reduced and you’re paying more.
The bank said Tuesday it is expecting to report a third-quarter loss of nearly $300 million for its insurance business, in part due to claims related to damage caused by severe weather in Ontario and Alberta. While Michael Goldberg of Desjardins Securities said the Royal Bank of Canada may also record similar charges, an agent for Royal Insurance said it has not affected premiums for now.
We recently received our home insurance renewal from TD Meloche Monnex. The renewal said that as of August, basic coverage for the sewer backup coverage will fall from $50,000 to $15,000 while the premium is rising from $129 to $138. You can buy more as needed.
TD spokeswoman Huma Pabani, said water damage claims account for more than half of TD’s annual residential losses. Climate change and aging municipal infrastructure have been significant catalysts for coverage and premium changes, she says.
An RBC Insurance representative said their home insurance policies include basic coverage of $25,000, but coverage can be increased to $50,000 or more. He was not aware of increases as the result of recent flooding claims.
Bruce Keilty, president of Hub International Insurance, a Toronto broker, says the companies his firm represents include sewer backup insurance as part of basic policies, but there are no maximum claims. He said premiums have been fairly stable.
Pabani says TD’s changes have been in the works for over a year and are not solely a response to recent events in Alberta or the GTA. She said the company decided to reduce the minimum basic coverage level to give customers more flexibility and lower premiums.
My first question when I called TD Meloche was how much coverage we need. The agent said that basic cleanup of a flooded basement costs $6,000 to $8,000. He recommended taking inventory of the replacement value of items stored in that space.
We were quoted $192 per year to bring our coverage back up to $50,000 — a 48-per-cent increase over last year. We decided on coverage of $30,000 for $167 a year.
If you’re worried, the best bet is to call your carrier.
“The home insurance industry is a competitive business and each insurer makes its own business decisions,” says Steve Kee, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s director of media relations.
However, if you live in an area prone to flooding or sewer backups, the Insurance Bureau of Canada recommends that you take the following precautions to help avoid basement water damage:
Inside your home
1. Move valuable items from the basement to upper floors.
2. Use water-resistant building materials below ground level.
3. Install a sump pump.
4. Install backwater valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections.
5. Raise large appliances, furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels up on wood or cement blocks above the water level.
6. Anchor fuel tanks to the floor. A fuel tank can tip over or float in a flood, causing fuel to spill or catch fire. Make sure vents and fill-line openings are above flood levels. If you use propane, contact the propane company before proceeding.
7. Install flood shields or built-up barriers for basement windows and doors. The tops of the shields should extend above ground level.
8. If flooding is imminent, shut off electricity to areas of the home that might be affected.
Outside your home
1. Ensure proper lot grading. If possible, build up the ground around your house so water can drain away from your basement walls.
2. Check sidewalks, patios, decks and driveways to make sure they haven’t settled over time causing water to drain toward your house.
3. Landscape with native plants and vegetation that resist soil erosion.
4. Clear snow away from the house foundation. If the ground is sloped one inch per foot near the house, moving snow just three to five feet from the house will reduce problems.
5. Keep water out of window wells.
6. Make sure downspouts extend at least six feet from your basement wall. Water should drain away from your house and neighbouring homes toward the street, backyard or back lane. Use a rain barrel to catch water runoff.
Check out other Insurance Bureau tip sheets on their web site.