A couple whose belongings were stolen from their downtown Vancouver condominium garage can't understand why TD Insurance denied their claim — despite video surveillance evidence, police reports and witnesses that all attest to the crime.
"We're left in the hole," said Daniel Parlee, a certified commercial transport mechanic. "My life savings of tools are gone — and we are denied every single penny of our loss."
TD Insurance records indicate the claim was refused because Daniel and wife, Sepide, couldn't prove they owned the tools and other items they claim were stolen.
"We've given them all the proof that we possibly could have," said Sepide.
Condo records show the couple is among 13 victims whose vehicles were burglarized in the January 2009 break-in.
Daniel said he had several thousand dollars worth of specialized tools collected over a 20-year period in the back of his truck.
"I don't have any receipts, because the tools are so old. I don't keep receipts for that long ago," he said.
According to condo records, the thieves had obtained an electronic key fob — and first accessed the garage the day before the theft. Daniel said they likely spotted his tools at that time.
Tools used by thieves
The following night, the thieves broke into Daniel's truck and then used his professional tools to break into several other vehicles and remove valuable wheels and other items, he said.
"The truck was pushed into the middle of the parking lot and all the windows were broken and all the tires were flat. It was a very unusual situation," said Sepide.
Daniel said some of his tools were left behind, scattered around the garage.
"They broke into the back of the truck. That was pried open," said Daniel. "That's where all the tools were. And it was so obvious — to anyone."
He said the condo's resident caretaker, along with some of the other victims of the break-in, saw the aftermath and reported that to police and insurance investigators.
Under his condominium contents insurance, Parlee submitted claims totalling $36,804 that he said is the replacement value of his tools and skis that were also in the truck.
Records show TD-Primmum Insurance paid a private investigator to look into the claim, before sending a letter more than a year after the break-in rejecting Parlee's entire claim.
"Without documentation or substantiation to support your loss, we are unable to respond to coverage and thereby deny your claim," reads the letter.
TD refused a request for an interview because Daniel recently filed a claim against the company in small claims court.
"We are unable to comment on the details of this claim due to ongoing litigation," TD corporate communications said in a statement.
Video evidence withheld
To add to his frustration, Parlee said the condo management has refused to release video surveillance tapes to TD's investigator. He said he was told they would not be released to anyone, other than the police, to protect the privacy of residents who are also shown on other sections of the tape.
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"There's the protection of the other owners — but then there's our rights to have this video footage," said Parlee.
He said the tape would likely still not help him prove the tools were stolen specifically from his truck because cameras are only at the parkade entrance.
"I made a mistake," Daniel admitted. "I should have taken photos of my tools."
Despite the videotape evidence, Vancouver police confirmed no arrests were made and no charges are pending.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said it's common for claims to be denied when claimants have no documentation to prove they owned what they lost.
"You have to be able to bring yourself within the contract to say that I had these specific items," said IBC spokesperson Lindsay Olson.
"It's not enough to say 'I had 50 pieces of tools'. You have to be able to say these are the specific items I had - and here are the receipts or the instruction manuals for those, or here are the photographs of them."
Most have no proof
A recent survey by IBC found that, while 95 per cent of Canadians agreed having an up-to-date inventory of their possessions was a good idea, 65 per cent of them did not have pictures or other documentation of their valuables.
Olson suggested people have their most prized possessions specifically listed on their policy when they buy it. She also urged customers to take pictures of their belongings - in their vehicle and their home - then and store the pictures in a safe place.
Otherwise, she said claimants risk being suspected of exaggerating a claim.
"If you had an old clunker, we are not going to get you a brand new Ferrari," she said.
Parlee said he has learned the hard way about keeping records . Still, he insists TD Insurance should honour at least part of his claim.
I said, 'Look just give us something.' I realize they are old tools," he said. "Rather than giving us a kick in the face they could have said…here's 10 or 20 per cent [of the replacement value]."
The Parlees said they were so upset over how they were treated, they pulled two large mortgages from TD Canada Trust, and now do business with another bank.
"I've held several investment properties. I've bought and sold. I have always been with TD Corporation" said Daniel. "Why be like this with a guy like me?"
"When they need you [to pay premiums] they are always there for you — when you need them they just leave you," said his wife.