February 28, 2018 by Greg Meckbach
Training home inspectors to assess properties for risk of basement flooding is the “most positive action” the industry can take to address the problem of flood-damaged homes, a conference speaker told insurance professionals Tuesday.
A new course for home inspectors, specifically on assessing residential property flood risk, will be rolled out this September at 20 colleges in Ontario, said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. Feltmate was a speaker at the Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference (ICTC) in Toronto.
“I was floored when I found out that home inspectors in this country receive virtually no training on basement flood risk or property flood risk assessment,” Feltmate said. “They receive training on roofing inspection, electricity inspection, heating, air conditioning, et cetera – virtually nothing on flood.”
There are about 9,000 home inspectors in Ontario and about 40,000 Canada-wide, Feltmate said. The course on home inspection will be rolled out Canada-wide in colleges in 2019, Feltmate added.
The course will give home inspectors “much more insight in being able to provide direction for a homeowner at the point of purchase – what has to be corrected in this home to limit flood risk.”
The average cost of a flooded basement in Canada is $43,000, Feltmate said. An increase since 2009 in catastrophe claims costs for the P&C insurance industry – with basement flooding a big part of the cost – “has now led to the growing reality of an uninsurable housing industry in Canada from Halifax to Victoria,” Feltmate said. “Certainly for big pockets here in Toronto, we have places where people can’t get insurance coverage for flooding in their basement period, no matter whether the source of flooding is sewer backup – the sewer system becoming overwhelmed in big storms and water backing up through the sewer system and flooding the basement that way – or overland flooding, water coming in the side window of your house.”
A course for home inspectors “is the single most positive action we can take in Canada today to protect ourselves from extreme weather events is at the level of the home itself,” Feltmate said. “This is a highly highly solvable problem. This does not require government intervention. The relationship between the home inspector, home owners, the real estate associations are part of the equation, the insurers and the banks.”
One bank, which Feltmate did not name, is starting to track mortgage defaults arising from basement flooding, he said.
“People are simply defaulting on their mortgages because they are out of their homes, they can’t afford to fix the flooded basement, they have to live somewhere else and the value of the house has diminishing – perhaps below the level which they actually owe on their mortgage,” Feltmate said. “This is the formidable challenge we need to address.”