A Winnipeg man is warning other homeowners not to leave their homes unattended in the winter, after he found his house flooded, frozen and badly damaged after a winter out of the province.
The entire main storey of Simon Allain's house is swollen with ice, there are pieces of drywall on the floor, and the smell of mould lingers in the air.
'It's not something that you'd think will happen to you.' —Simon Allain
Allain said it appears an upstairs pipe froze and broke sometime in November. At the time, he was working in Alberta over the winter.
Although he left his furnace on, it went out at some point.
Water spread throughout the entire house. It was frozen by the time he returned to Winnipeg.
In addition to tens of thousands of dollars in damage, Allain faces a water bill of nearly $13,000.
"Everything's ruined. All the woodwork is ruined," he told CBC News during a recent tour of the house.
Because no one was checking on Allain's house while he was away, he said his insurance company won't cover the damage.
"As an inexperienced homeowner, I wasn't really fully aware of all of the things, the precautions that people are expected to take with their home," he said.
"It's not something that you'd think will happen to you."
Insurance policies vary
Officials with a Winnipeg house-sitting company told CBC News that insurance policies vary on how often a house should be checked on while the owners are away.
Some policies require daily visits, while others call for visits every other day or even once a week.
Homeowners can take an additional preventative step by installing a house alarm that monitors temperature, according to experts.
As for Allain, the full extent of the damage still needs to be assessed. He said he had hoped to sell his house and move someplace cheaper so he can live mortgage-free.
Allain said he wants other homeowners to learn from his experience.
"If you don't take it seriously, that it could happen, you could be left with nothing when it does," he said.