Experts: Huge Toronto fire highlights value of contents insurance

By Michelle McQuigge

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Experts say a massive fire at a Toronto athletics facility this week that forced the evacuations of six buildings vividly demonstrates why landlords are increasingly insisting rental tenants obtain insurance for their homes.

They say the past five years have seen a noticeable spike in the number of landlords requiring would-be renters to prove that they have contents and liability insurance as a condition of their tenancy.

Though there are no numbers tracking the trend so far, they say anecdotal evidence suggests it’s most pronounced in Ontario.

They say tenant insurance, which typically combines both the contents and liability components, protects both landlords and residents from unexpected incidents such as Tuesday’s fire that sent heavy smoke billowing over a busy part of midtown Toronto.

The blaze ripped through the city’s Badminton and Racquet Club, causing much of the building to collapse and prompting evacuations of nearby condominiums and businesses.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Damage from unexpected disasters, such as the Toronto fire, would be covered by many policies, though individual terms would vary, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Condominium owners would likely be covered for the cost of alternative accommodations or smoke-damaged belongings, Karageorgos said, since most have had to obtain insurance as a condition of securing a mortgage.

But renters who felt the cost of insurance was unnecessary and chose not to purchase it may find bills mounting quickly, he said, adding the relatively modest price of insurance premiums could net huge savings if disaster strikes.

“There’s no law requiring a landlord to make sure that a tenant has that. It’s optional,” he said.  “However … it’s wise to have it.”

The trend towards an insistence on insurance for renters is relatively recent, according to the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations.

President John Dickie said such clauses have been part of leases for years, but said they were not strictly enforced and rarely led to evictions.

A 2005 court decision in Ontario changed things by bringing some clarity to that province’s landlord-tenant act.

“The Act is silent about whether or not a landlord has the right to demand that tenants maintain insurance, or that they provide proof of coverage to their landlords,” reads the decision. “However, if the parties agree to it, it, too, becomes a contractual issue.”

Dickie said that decision touched off a slow increase in the number of landlords requiring insurance from their tenants, adding the trend has gained momentum in the past five years.

If a tenant promises to obtain insurance by signing a lease requiring it and then fails to do so, the landlord could then have grounds for eviction.

Asking tenants to pay premiums as low as $15 a month has clear advantages for landlords, he said, adding tenant insurance offers financial protection from the actions of others.

“It’s not our fault that a tenant let the bath overrun and the water ran down and ruined your heirloom dining room set,” Dickie offered as an example. “If the tenants get insurance for that, then it doesn’t turn around to be a problem that we have to deal with.”

Alberta pays tribute to first responders who battled massive Fort McMurray fire

The Alberta government is paying tribute to first responders who battled and dealt with the Fort McMurray wildfire.

The province is naming the bridge that crosses Highway 63, which goes through the town, as “Responders Way.”

The fire in May forced almost 90,000 people to flee the region and destroyed more than 1,900 structures.

When the first batch of residents were allowed back about a month later, first responders stood on the bridge over the highway to welcome them home.

Melissa Blake, mayor of the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes the city of Fort McMurray, says they are delighted with the tribute.

Premier Rachel Notley, who was in Fort McMurray on Wednesday to make the announcement, says people will think of what the first responders did every time they cross the bridge or drive under it.

“First responders, during the Wood Buffalo fire, absolutely made the difference. They made the difference between safety and danger, they made the difference between chaos and order, and certainly, in many, many cases, they made the difference between life and death,” said Notley.

“They dedicated themselves without thinking. All of you did, you just went out and you did your work, and you worked and you worked for hours and hours and days and days and I remember coming up here and seeing people who hadn’t gone home for days, they were just working and working, even knowing that their home wasn’t even there.”

Notley made several stops in the community on Wednesday, including spending time at Westwood High School with students in Grades 10, 11, and 12, all of whom had lost their home in the fire.

She also visited the very first home site to get a rebuild permit after the fire. The home is nearly completed.

Erin O’Neill, Wood Buffalo recovery branch lead, said in the Thickwood neighbourhood alone there were a total of 178 homes lost. She said so far 41 rebuild permits have been issued in Wood Buffalo and across the region 229 rebuild permits have been issued.

Some Fort McMurray residents have expressed anger over red tape and the slow pace of insurance payouts.

‘Try [to] keep that loss at a bare minimum.’– Kent Rowe, Insurance Broker’s Association

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Many Hurricane Matthew victims don’t have flood insurance

By Kelli Kennedy And Russ Bynum

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

POOLER, Ga. _ Waist-deep floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew coursed down the street in Pooler and seeped under Lori Galemore’s doors, swamping the carpets and furniture as she and her three sons retreated upstairs, where they stayed until firefighters arrived by boat.

Galemore and her neighbours in Pooler, a community about 35 miles inland from the evacuated Georgia coast, were deluged not by seawater driven ashore by the hurricane, but by rain and runoff that overwhelmed a drainage ditch at the end of their cul-de-sac.

“Everybody said, ‘You’re not in a flood plain. You don’t need flood insurance,” Galemore said Wednesday as her husband and sons threw out soggy furniture, waterlogged books, towels and blankets and wet chunks of drywall. “And flood insurance is expensive. Who wants to pay that?”

Galemore’s story is all too common. Many Americans don’t have flood insurance, some because they don’t want to pay for it, some because they don’t see the need for it.

Even in high-risk flood zones where homes are required to have such coverage, the compliance rate nationally was only 53 per cent as of 2015, according to the government’s National Flood Insurance Program.

Industry officials say it is a troubling situation, especially since the risk of flooding appears to be on the rise.

“We seem to be having more and more flooding events, be it climate change or other things. We’re seeing areas that are experiencing flooding events that may not have experienced them in the past,” said Cynthia DiVincenti, a vice-president at Aon National Flood Services.

Ordinary homeowner insurance typically covers wind damage _ torn-off roofs, fallen trees _ but not flooding. Banks require homes in high-risk flood zones to buy flood insurance, but even then the percentage of properties that are covered is well short of 100 per cent. It was 57 per cent in Florida, 72 per cent in South Carolina and 81 per cent in Louisiana, the National Flood Insurance Program reported.

Worse, lots of flooding takes place outside those designated hazard areas. That was the case when heavy storms flooded parts of South Carolina last year and an unnamed storm recently inundated the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area. The damage in Baton Rouge was put at $660 million, and most people there had no flood insurance.

“Flooding is the most common and costly disaster we see in the United States,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Rafael Lemaitre. Flood claims have averaged more than $1.9 billion per year since 2006, according to federal officials.

Flood insurance in low- to moderate-risk areas averages $400 to $600 a year, according to FEMA. FEMA, through the National Flood Insurance Program, offers flood insurance because it’s generally not profitable for private insurers to sell it.

Matthew sideswiped Florida and Georgia last week before blowing ashore briefly in South Carolina and unloading more than a foot of rain on North Carolina, where it triggered disastrous flooding. The U.S. death toll is well over 30.

Walter Coker’s fish camp on the Matanzas River in Crescent Beach, Florida, was inundated. The 4-foot surge destroyed a warehouse on the property where he stores furniture imported from Indonesia. The boat slips he rents out were torn apart, with the huge wooden pilings used to hold the docks jerked out of the river bottom. Floodwaters inundated his bait and tackle shop, ruining the coolers that hold bait and beer.

Coker didn’t have flood insurance.

“I did look into it. It would’ve been very expensive,” he said. “It’s one of those things you don’t buy it on something you don’t think will happen.”

The floodwaters were waist-high inside Kathy Finger’s elegant two-story brick home with crystal chandeliers in Nichols, South Carolina. Now she is unsure how to proceed without flood insurance.

“I wouldn’t imagine that hardly anyone had it,” the 67-year-old said of her town near the Lumber River. The river had never overflowed before, and no one had any reason to fear it would, she said.

Homeowners without flood insurance may qualify for federal grants for shelter and food, but those are typically small sums and aren’t meant to replace all losses. Homeowners can also apply for low-interest disaster loans, which must be repaid.

Paul Mueller estimated his Pooler home has up to $80,000 worth of damage from the foot of water in his house. Like his neighbours, Mueller doesn’t have flood insurance either.

“We’re all in the same boat here,” he said.  “If we had trees to come down on our houses, we’d have been covered. That’s the sad truth.”

Flood damage total at least $10M, premier’s office confirms

Source: CBC | Newfoundland & Labrador

The cost of repairing damage across Newfoundland from flooding and road washouts in the wake of Hurricane Matthew will be much higher than first thought.

Premier Dwight Ball’s office confirmed late Thursday morning that the repair bill will total at least $10 million.

Earlier in the week, Ball estimated damages would be at least $1.5 million, the threshold to qualify for federal assistance.

Whatever level of government pays, repairs are continuing, according to the Department of Transportation and Works, with road links being restored to communities cut off by the torrential rainfall.

Route 340 to Michael’s Harbour, near Lewisporte, has reopened, along with Route 352 to Phillip’s Head, near Botwood.

A number of secondary roads in Notre Dame Bay, through Norris Arm North, Northern Arm and Charles Brook, as well as Route 340 to Embree and Little Burnt Bay and Route 341 to Brown’s Arm had one lane open.

While the Conne River intersection at Route 360 was open, the portion of road near Cat Brook had reduced lanes in sections and Swanger’s Cove Bridge on Route 361 was still closed.

Route 364 to Hermitage remained closed, with one lane due to open by Thursday evening and the road from Musgrave Harbour to Aspen Cove was also closed.

Applications for relief

In the meantime, applications to the Newfoundland and Labrador Disaster Financial Assistance Program are being accepted.

Liberal MP Scott Simms said the first assessment of damage will be done by the province, and the federal government’s assistance will be focused on the medium and long term.

Simms told CBC Radio’s Central Morning Show that applications will be channeled through Ralph Goodale, the minister of public safety.

“[Residents] apply under the disaster assistance arrangements program, and they can get up to 90 per cent reimbursement for the damage. My job now is to go around and make sure that everyone is OK, and we move from here and see what kind of work that we need to do.”

Scott Simms is the Liberal MP for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. (Liberal Party of Canada)

Simms said the only federal assistance to the province so far has been search and rescue.

“I advise people — like [with] what happened around Igor — check on your neighbours, check on the most vulnerable — the elderly, young children — make sure everyone’s OK and then we [can] get on with the cleanup,” Simms said.

Homeowners, small businesses, non-profit organizations and communities can apply for government disaster relief.

Residents should contact their insurance companies first to help alleviate further damage, a provincial government release stated.

For more information and advice from the provincial government click here.

Closed US restaurants, damaged homes: Matthew may cost $10B

By Christopher S. Rugaber And Russ Bynum

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hurricane Matthew impaired or destroyed more than 1 million structures, forced businesses from Florida to North Carolina to close and put thousands temporarily out of work.

Goldman Sachs estimates the storm probably caused $10 billion in damage overall. Insurance companies will likely be liable for about $4 billion to $6 billion of that total, according to an estimate Saturday by CoreLogic, a real estate data provider.

In many affected areas, small-business owners were still assessing the damage, but figures suggest Matthew’s effect on the broader national economy will be minimal.

Though damage estimates are usually revised higher after more comprehensive assessments, the current figures would still make Matthew the 22nd-worst storm since World War II.

canada-press

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