Canadian Underwriter

‘It’s triage now’: Cottage Country brokers deal with flood fallout

May 6, 2019   by Adam Malik

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Brokers in Ontario’s Muskoka region are calling the recent flooding event the worst disaster they’ve ever seen.

Both Stephen Darling, president at A.W. Shiers Insurance Brokers, and Adam Caswell, owner of Hutcheson Reynolds & Caswell, said damage is greater and more widespread than what was seen in the last major flood of 2013.

Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ), which provides loss statistics on Canadian catastrophes, noted the 2013 Muskoka flooding did not make the grade as a “notable event,” meaning the insured damage did not reach the $10-million threshold. It is still too early to tell how much the most recent flooding will cost.

“Most every place I’m looking is at the same level (as 2013) or worse than it was,” Darling said. “I’ve got staff here that are Bracebridge natives and nobody seems to recall it being this bad.”

Caswell said there’s water in places that have never seen it before.

A.W. Shiers Insurance Brokers has offices in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, while Hutchison Reynolds & Caswell has offices in Bracebridge and Huntsville.

It would be impossible at this stage to guess the level of claims coming into brokers as a result of the flooding and how much will fall under insured and uninsured, Caswell and Darling said. Add in a flood, and things snowball.

“It’s triage right now,” Darling reported. “It’s about getting a claim in, trying to make sure there’s an adjuster working on it, or [that an adjuster] has made initial contact with the client, and then go on. It’s unfortunate at this stage. It’s the squeaky wheel.”

Calls into the office are not out of control, the brokers report, as many cottagers haven’t been up to their properties yet. Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith has asked property owners to stay away for the time being.

That said, it’s all-hands-on-deck for the industry professionals who are handling the claims. As a result, brokers have run out of contractors to call. Any claims coming in at this point are going on a waitlist, Darling said.

“If there’s a cottage there that has water in it, we’d rather know about it sooner than later because those problems don’t get better with time – they get worse,” he said. “But we’re not encouraging our clients to brave the roads.”

Property owners are aware that overland flood coverage is typically not available for properties that are located within a flood plain.

“Most of our customers seem to understand that, yes, this isn’t a situation like a fire insurance policy,” Darling said. “This isn’t random; you know it’s going to happen [in a flood plain], and it’s inevitable.”

As for the businesses, both Darling and Caswell said their brokerages did not suffer any property damage. Their homes are fine and staff are relatively unscathed. It’s just a matter of keeping up with the number of calls. After this initial rush, Caswell expects calls to ebb and flow going forward as the mess gets cleaned up.

“It’s definitely stretching our staff pretty thin, that’s for sure,” he said.

Darling is also seeing an uptick of calls from clients to double check what coverages they have.

Caswell sees potential issues when it comes to renewals and protecting against water damage. “They’re probably going to restrict coverage in our area,” he said.

When asked about possible flood coverage restrictions in the area, Intact Insurance told Canadian Underwriter: “Our enhanced water damage product, made up of several components (sewer back-up, water and sewer lines, overland water and ground water), is available to the majority of homeowners across Canada. The extent of coverage will depend on where customers live. Limit and availability of coverage varies based of flood risk level area.”

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