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Flood watch: Is your home properly protected and insured?

Last Updated Aug 21, 2018 at 2:26 pm EDT

Some find the sound of pounding rain soothing, but for homeowners it can instill feelings of dread and anxiety.

And for good reason.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), flooded basements can drain bank accounts and leave homeowners on edge every time dark clouds fill the sky.

And Ontario is notably water-logged.

According to Pete Karageorgos, IBC’s Director of Consumer and Industry relations for Ontario, claims for water damage from severe weather are reaching staggering levels in 2018.

“So far this year in Ontario the insurance industry has paid out to property owners almost $800 million in damage due to severe weather events,” he told CityNews. “That is a considerable amount considering the average for the last few years has been about a billion dollars across all of Canada for the entire year. So we are almost at $800 million and we still have about five months left in the year.”

Karageorgos says that number reflects statistics up until the end of July, and doesn’t include the recent soakings that have made headlines in the Greater Toronto Area.

A recent study by the Intact Centre on Climate Adaption and the University of Waterloo found that the average cost of a flooded basement in Canada is $43,000.

That can lead to some anxious moments when the rain starts pattering.

“It can be stressful, and the next time it rains you wonder if your basement is going to flood again,” Karageorgos added. “So it’s not just the financial costs, there’s a psychological cost that we pay when our basements flood too.”

Understand your coverage

Karageorgos advises homeowners to carefully go over their insurance policies so they understand exactly what they are covered for.

“You should never assume you’re covered for a specific event on your insurance policy,” he said. “Always sit down with your insurance representative and go through your policy and coverage. Some standard policies may include water damage through burst pipes, overflowing sinks and toilets and that is a water event … but it’s not the type of flood event we are seeing in great numbers now from these severe storms that are damaging properties.”

Karageorgos says insurance companies are increasingly offering flood insurance packages. But they’ll come at an extra cost. He believes it’s a small price to pay.

“A large number of insurance companies within the last three years have started to offer comprehensive flood insurance. That is an additional cost to homeowners, but the cost when you consider the price of a cleanup of a flooded basement and lost possessions — it’s really an affordable price to pay for some peace of mind.”

With more and more claims coming in for flood damage, Karageorgos says consumers could end up paying higher premiums.

“The insurance companies are going to look at their claims costs and adjust their premiums and rates accordingly,” he said. “Claims drive prices. So if you’re in a situation where the trend is upwards claims, prices or premiums will follow.”

Advice for homeowners

Karageorgos says there are several proactive steps homeowners can take to avoid a costly flood and the subsequent mess of insurance claims.

You can install backwater valves and sump pumps, disconnect downspouts and make sure there’s no cracks in your foundation.

He also advises carefully documenting the items in your basement, taking photos and keeping any receipts.

And if you know a storm is coming move any valuable or sentimental items to higher ground.

Last but not least, if you’re basement does flood and you hire help, make sure they’re reputable.

“You could be victimized twice,” Karageorgos warns. “Once from the storm and a second time from an illegitimate contractor.”