As insurance claims pour in after Manitoba spring storm, here's what homeowners need to know

Many Manitobans still cleaning up from a spring storm are waiting to learn what will be covered by their insurance.

Standard policies don't automatically include flooding, sewer backup coverage: Insurance Bureau spokesperson

Christina Beeusaert's East. St. Paul basement backed up with water ankle-deep on Sunday. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The water has receded and fans are blowing around the clock in Christina Beeusaert's East St. Paul basement.

Her belongings are stacked to the ceiling and like many Manitobans, she is waiting to learn just how much the water damage will cost her.

"It depends, once they start ripping the other room apart, how much water damage there is behind the walls and that," she told CBC News.

"[The insurance company] basically said the more work that we can do ourselves, of course, the farther the money will go. So that's what we're trying to do right now."

Water began backing up into her home, just northeast of Winnipeg, through the sump pit Sunday morning, during the storm that swept southern Manitoba last weekend.

Water began backing up into Beeusaert's basement sump pit Sunday during heavy rainfall. (Submitted by Christina Beeusaert)

Despite a sump pump, backwater valve and multiple pumps going, ankle-deep water spread through her basement.

Beeusaert said she has coverage for both sewer backup and overland flooding, up to $10,000, but admits repairs will likely cost more.

Check policy coverage: Insurance Bureau

Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says Manitobans dealing with water damage need to take plenty of pictures and document the damage. 

He also says it's important to understand your policy and what is covered.

"A standard home insurance policy does not automatically include overland flood coverage or sewer backup. These are optional endorsements that you can add on to your standard home insurance policy," de Pruis said. "So if you have damage, your first step is to check your insurance policy."

Insurance coverage for overland flooding is relatively new in Canada. De Pruis says it emerged on the market in 2015 and more people are adding it on. 

In Manitoba, more than a dozen companies now offer it. It's available to most residents, depending on a property's flood risk.   

De Pruis says there may be problems if a person has coverage for sewer backup, but not overland flooding, and experiences both.

"Many policy wordings will not provide you with any coverage" in that scenario, de Pruis said. "Because really, a lot of these sewer backups are caused by the overland flood event."

Anyone with questions about their coverage or what's available should contact their broker, de Pruis said.

"If you don't have coverage, it may not be too late before the next event … to add that coverage on to your policy," he added.

448 basement flooding calls: City of Winnipeg

In Winnipeg alone, there were 448 calls to the city over basement flooding between Friday and Monday, a city spokesperson said.

At Manitoba-based Wawanesa Insurance, claims continue to pour in from the April storm.

Graham Haigh, Wawanesa's chief marketing officer, says the company has logged hundreds of claims across the province so far and has brought in additional staff to deal with the influx.

"We do ask for our customers patience at times like this … as we get out to their homes," he said. "Things do take a little bit longer in a mass event such like this."

In addition to insurance for overland flooding and sewer back up, he says there are a number of measures homeowners can take to protect their properties.

He suggests installing backflow valves and backup power supplies for sump pumps. Landscaping and grading around your home to keep water flowing away from it, and checking the foundation regularly for signs of leaking, are also recommended.

"There's lots we can do to make ourselves more resilient," he said.

Back at her home, Beeusaert is waiting for movers to take her basement belongings and furniture before restoration begins.

"I do have to say, on a positive note, I saved my homemade wine," she said, adding she looks forward to a glass when the mess is cleaned up.

What will my insurance cover?

5 months ago
Duration 2:21
As people across the province clean up from the weekend storm and possibly more rain on the way, they're also waiting to learn what, if anything, will be covered by insurance. Experts say, it's important to review your plan carefully.


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