A Dartmouth homeowner is warning others to be cautious after he received a notice from his insurance company saying he was too high risk to continue his coverage after he filed two claims in five years.
Michael Johnston had been a customer of Allstate Canada for 15 years — until last month, when he received a notice he was being dropped.
"This policy falls under our property risk management guide, unacceptable conditions and underwriting referrals: the policy has had more than one claim in the past five years," the letter read.
"Please note that a period of time remains before your protection runs out. This will allow you time to apply for other insurance. We urge you to do so and not run the risk of being unprotected."
In December 2010, Johnston filed a claim for $2,700 after a minor sewer backup in his bathroom. There was another claim for approximately $9,400 in October 2012, when the tail end of Hurricane Sandy damaged the roof of the Johnstons' family home.
Those two claims within five years deemed Johnston a high risk to the insurance company.
"We can't comment on individual customer policies but we can tell you that in general, two claims in five years will often trigger a full review of a policy," Karen Benner, a spokeswoman for Allstate Canada, said in an emailed statement.
"We will take into consideration the customer's history with us, including previous claims over the life of the policy and the types of claims made. If after review we deem that the risk profile is high, we will consider termination of the policy."
Onus on homeowner
Johnston said it was tough finding another insurer after being labelled a high risk and he's now paying three times more for insurance.
"That's the part that hurts the most. My coverage was about $60 a month," he said.
"Then all of a sudden, it's a bill that's going to be around $180 a month."
Liz Cosgrove, a director with the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia, said home insurance policies aren't required to say how many claims or strikes a client has before he or she is "out."
The onus is on homeowners to ask the company or insurance broker before paying out-of-pocket for damage, or filing a claim.
"I would like to think that if I had a client and they had a claim, that they would call me when they had the claim and I would provide them with some advice," Cosgrove told CBC News.
"If it was a rough market out there I might say to my client, 'Look, I'm not sure you want to put in that claim. You had a claim last year. This is going to be your second claim in two years. Maybe this is not the best time to put in that claim.'"
'I certainly wouldn't have claimed'
Many companies are refusing to insure people who have had two claims within the last five years, or even three years.
"You provide that client with some counsel and you hope they take that advice," said Cosgrove.
"Sometimes they're in a position to do it financially, other times they don't have a choice and they have to move forward with the claim and live with whatever happens."
Meanwhile, Johnston needs at least three years without a claim before he can get more than basic fire coverage at a lower price.
He said if he'd known he would be dropped, he would have reconsidered filing for the sewer backup.
"If we would have known what I know now, I certainly wouldn't have claimed," Johnston said.
"But it just happened to be around Christmastime, I think it was the 28th and it was a backup and we had guests and everything else."