Postal code change leaves couple facing insurance hike

Ryan Flanagan, Producer, CTVNews.ca

An Ontario couple saw their home and auto insurance premiums increase to the tune of hundreds of dollars per year because of a change in their address – even though they didn’t move.

Christine and David Pindar live in a rural part of Oshawa, Ont., east of Toronto.

They were notified by Canada Post last summer that the last three digits of their postal code would be changing. Once the change took effect, they passed on the new information to their insurance company, the Allstate Insurance Company of Canada.

“They said ‘Oh, well that means your premiums are going to have to go up,’” Christine Pindar told CTVNews.ca.

Pindar said her house insurance premium rose by 37 per cent and the premiums for her and her husband’s three cars increased by about 10 per cent each. She pegged the overall increase at approximately $600 per year.

Taking a deeper dive into the numbers, she found that her insurance company now believed it would cost her more to replace her house in the event it was destroyed – not just because of inflation, but also because of the new postal code – while the actual assessed value of the home remained the same.

When she contacted Allstate, she said she was told that the new postal code put her into a higher-risk area.

Particularly strange, as Pindar sees it, is that the new postal code didn’t exist before last summer – making her wonder how exactly it can be deemed risky.

“It’s a brand-new postal code. How can that create an increase? It just blows my mind,” she said.

Pindar said she and her husband are looking into their options and if there is anything they can do to lower their premiums.

“For anybody, $600 is a slap in the face for no reason,” she said.

A spokesperson for Allstate Canada declined to address the Pindars’ situation specifically.

WHAT HAPPENED?

According to Canada Post, the Pindars’ home is one of approximately 500 in the Oshawa area which saw their postal codes reassigned as part of changes to postal routes. The changes “are necessary to accommodate increased growth in the area and to improve overall delivery efficiencies,” according to a spokesperson for the agency.

“Postal code changes do not happen often and we go to great lengths not to change them,” the spokesperson said.

Postal codes play a significant role in determining insurance premiums in Ontario. The Allstate spokesperson said the company includes postal code data as well as a home’s age and type when calculating home insurance policies. Auto insurance policies are based on factors including the vehicle’s safety rating and usage, as well as the driver’s experience and previous claims.

“All insurance companies operating in Ontario are mandated by the provincial regulator to consider postal codes when calculating premiums and we must adhere to that regulatory framework,” Jordan Kerbel, the company’s director of external relations, said in a statement.

According to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, people living in urban areas generally face higher rates because of higher traffic levels and increased likelihood of theft.

Pindar suspects this may be at play in her case, as her previous postal code covered an area spread further out from Highway 407 than the area of the new code.

Jasmine Daya, a Toronto-based lawyer, told CTV’s Your Morning Monday that Ontario’s so-called postal code discrimination tends to benefit drivers in downtown Toronto and outside the Greater Toronto Area, while drivers in suburban parts of the GTA typically have to pay higher auto insurance rates.

“People in Brampton, people in Scarborough, their rates are very high,” she said.

“People who are paying lower rates, being outside the GTA, are very happy to have postal code discrimination because they benefit.”

Two bills introduced at Queen’s Park last fall called for the Ontario government to ban the practiceof letting insurance companies set rates based on addresses or postal codes.

The insurance question: No heat or hot water for 6 days at North York condo building

CBC News Toronto

A North York condo building went six days without hot water or heat after a fire in the building’s hydro transformer over the weekend.

Hoseyn Khosravani, a tenant at 399 Spring Garden Ave., told CBC Toronto he had been layering blankets on his bed and heating up water on his stove in order to wash.

“It’s pretty bad,” he said in an interview a few hours before heat and hot water were restored late Thursday afternoon.

Khosravani’s neighbour, Reza Maleki, had also been struggling, describing the six days without heat or hot water as “hard.”

In a written statement to CBC Toronto, the building management company, Times Property Management Inc., said was “working around the clock,” along with Toronto Hydro and various contractors, to fix the problems.

Toronto Fire confirms that they were called to this North York address on Saturday, April 20 to deal with reports of smoke in the hydro vault near the building’s condo garage. (Garry Asselstine/CBC)

Two hours later, they followed up with tenants, writing that hot water, heat, and hallway ventilation had been restored to the building, though some communal rooms still lacked power.

The insurance question

Though heat and hot water have returned, Khosravani remains frustrated by the slow pace of repairs and lack of clear communication from condo management.

When he had asked about building insurance and options to be housed elsewhere, he said he was eventually told by the management team to find the certificate number for the insurance policy on his own unit.

Denise Lash, a lawyer who specializes in condo law, says that’s by the book.

Lash says condo corporations are obligated to take “reasonable steps” to repair damage to common elements like heat and electricity — but that repair processes can be complicated and lengthy, and that condo corps don’t need to pay for tenants to live elsewhere.

“That is something that a corporation does not have an obligation to do … That is where it’s important for unit owners to get their proper insurance,” she said.

Lash also said the situation can be quite different for tenants like Khosravani who are renting, as opposed to unit owners.

“An owner should get their own insurance. A landlord may have an obligation with respect to finding accommodation for their tenant,” she said.

New standard recommended in response to high-wind damage to Canadian homes

A report from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) recommends the development of a new national standard of Canada on wind resilience to mitigate residential and small building property damage resulting from natural disasters in Canada.

High winds contributed in part to most natural catastrophes recorded by the Insurance Bureau of Canada between 1983 and 2016. The May 2018 windstorm, for example, in southern Ontario and Quebec, followed by tornadoes in the National Capital Region in September 2018, caused close to $1 billion in insured losses, according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantifications Inc.

Specifically, the report proposes measures for four major categories: roofs; walls and upper and lower storey connections; anchoring of the building to the foundation; and additional construction details such as garage doors. These measures could form the basis of a new National Standard of Canada, which governments could incorporate into regulation, which could be integrated in the National Building Code or to which builders could adhere voluntarily thus raising the bar for construction in Canada.

“Protecting residential structures will be aided by measures that have the biggest impact on structural safety,” said Paul Kovacs, executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.  “For example, roofs are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of high wind. Keeping roofs sound and well-connected to walls helps reduce structural failure and property damage, like that associated with intrusion of water.”

“Standardization is an important tool to protect Canadian communities from extreme weather,” said Chantal Guay, CEO of the Standards Council of Canada. “New guidance in this area is a much-needed enhancement to the infrastructure and building safety toolbox,” said Guay. “By collaborating with ICLR and SCC accredited standards development organizations, we are setting a foundation for a new national standard that will help protect Canadians and their homes during extreme weather events.”

Homeowners, builders, insurers and decision makers are well-advised to mitigate the risks of extreme weather events to property. The report is available for download on ICLR’s website – www.iclr.org – and on SCC’s website – www.scc.ca.

About the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction

Established in 1997 by Canada’s property and casualty insurers, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction is an independent, not-for-profit research institute based in Toronto and at Western University in London, Canada. The International Council for Science designated the Institute as an International Centre of Excellence in integrated research on disaster risk. The Institute is also a founding member of the Global Alliance of Disaster Research Institutes. The Institute’s research staff are internationally recognized for pioneering work in a number of fields including wind and seismic engineering, atmospheric sciences, water resources engineering and economics. Multi-disciplined research is a foundation for the Institute’s work to build communities more resilient to disasters.

About the Standards Council of Canada

SCC is a Crown corporation that leads Canada’s standardization network. SCC facilitates the development and use of national and international standards and accreditation services in order to enhance Canada’s competitiveness and well-being. SCC is part of the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada portfolio. To learn more about SCC, please visit www.scc.ca.

For the latest SCC news, subscribe to the SCC Monthly Newsletter or follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

SOURCE Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction

Aviva Canada insurance changes leave some drivers scrambling

Insurer Aviva Canada has implemented new — and what some call drastic — auto policy changes that some motorists are not happy about.

Calgarian Scott Ramsay is one of those drivers. He’d been a policy holder for almost 10 years.

“I had no tickets, no convictions, same with my wife,” Ramsay said. “We’re clean drivers and we always have been.”

They did have one insurance claim for hail, three years ago, but Ramsay said that was it.

That’s why they were surprised to get a letter and lengthy renewal application from Aviva Canada a few weeks before their policy was to be renewed.

“Just the way it was worded, it kind of ticked me off. You can apply for renewal and we may give you the opportunity to renew.”

The letter further stated if he was approved, the full premium was due at renewal — he could no longer pay in installments.

“There will be many people who can’t afford to pay that — 12 months upfront,” Ramsay said. “So they will walk away.”

Global News has heard from several Aviva Canada customers who have experienced the same situation.

Some didn’t read the letter carefully, or respond in time, and their insurance coverage was cancelled.

Aviva Canada spokesperson Fabrice de Dongo told Global News:

“Fundamentally, we’re just working to make sure we have accurate and updated information, so that we have a full understanding of our customers’ needs.”

He said Aviva does this because during the year, drivers can get into accidents or get tickets and the company can’t accurately rate or assess the risk, or determine the proper premium for a renewal.

“In some instances, we may also amend payment options for a customer.”

de Dongo said the company will also give customers as much time as possible to update their information, and they will always renew properly completed applications.

In Alberta, he said Aviva mails out renewal applications 45 days prior to the renewal date.

Aviva Canada went on to say the changes won’t affect all of its policy holders and it also isn’t limited to Alberta customers — but for competitive reasons, the company can’t disclose any more details.

Ramsay doesn’t know why he was chosen, but said he believes the insurer is trying to sign on new customers at higher premiums in order to make more money.

Global News put the allegation to Aviva, but didn’t get a specific response.

“I’m essentially giving them $2,500 a year to insure two cars that I don’t claim on,” he said. “Now they just lost that business.”

Ramsay has moved on, choosing to shop around. He said he’s signed on with a new insurer and will be saving $400 a year.

Auto insurance prices increase in Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada

The excerpted article was written by

It’s getting more expensive to drive for some Canadians.

A report from LowestRates.ca, an online comparison site for insurance, mortgages, loans and credit cards, found that drivers in Ontario, Alberta and Atlantic Canada saw auto insurance prices go up in the first quarter of 2019.

The steepest increase happened in Alberta, where auto insurance prices increased by 11.22 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 when compared to the same time a year earlier. According to LowestRates.ca, insurance companies are blaming the price hikes on a government-imposed cap that limits the amount that auto insurance rates can go up.

“Several of our auto insurance partners we have spoken to in the province say they have been limiting the number of new clients they’re taking in Alberta because the caps are hurting them financially,” the report said.

“Naturally, this scenario has led to fewer options for consumers when they go to sign up for auto insurance.”

In Ontario, auto insurance prices increased 9.06 per cent in the first quarter when compared to the same time in 2018, while Atlantic Canada saw a slightly more marginal increase of 6.52 per cent.

The jump comes as the Ontario government looks to fix what it calls the “broken” auto insurance system, with a multi-year plan introduced in the 2019 budget earlier this month.

Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government unveiled a blueprint to to change Ontario’s auto insurance system. The strategy will focus on lowering costs, finding efficiencies, reducing regulations, increasing competition, and fighting fraud, the government said.

“Regardless, it will take some time to see all of these changes go into effect – during which time prices in the province could move even higher,” the report said.

When it comes to Atlantic Canada, LowestRates.ca said prices in Newfoundland and Labrador have driven the increase.

And how does being a “medicinal” or “recreational” user affect your premiums?

Read more

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