Frustrated, overwhelmed victims of Cape Breton flood plead for help
Questions about taxes, insurance, financial assistance answered by experts
Some people in Cape Breton are still desperate for information on where to turn for help after the flooding on Thanksgiving Monday.
Here are some answers from a phone-in on Monday, hosted by CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning, which included a lawyer, an insurance specialist, a general contractor, a disaster restoration specialist and officials from Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality:
Water bills and municipal taxes
Tricia O'Neil's home on St. Peters Road in Sydney has been declared uninhabitable, so she and her family are staying with friends.
"What are the next steps?" she asked the panel of experts. "Do we still have to pay municipal taxes? Do we still need to pay water?"
Christina Lamey, a spokesperson with the mayor's office, said water accounts can be suspended or cancelled.
Liam Gillis, a lawyer with Sampson McPhee, said homeowners can notify the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's taxation department if their homes have been deemed uninhabitable.
"Sometimes they can have a reduction in their taxes for that uninhabitable space," he said.
What does insurance cover?
The limits of insurance coverage are an ongoing frustration for some who didn't understand why they weren't covered for flooding.
While coverage for sewer backup is "pretty common," the experts said most people are likely not covered for overland water damage.
"In the past year and a half, some insurance companies have developed extended water coverage," said Amanda Dean, the vice president for the Insurance Bureau of Canada's Atlantic region. "It is new on the market."
So, determining the cause of the flooding is key.
"If you disagree with an insurance adjuster's assessment of the cause of damage, it's important to have someone else in — perhaps a restoration expert that can provide a second opinion." Gillis said.
What can you do while you wait for an adjuster?
Walter Dewey, whose home was damaged by an overflowing brook, said he has insurance but is still waiting for an adjuster to visit.
Dean suggested he keep a record of the damage.
"Document the damage. Take photos," she said. "Then, clean up what you can. Anything you can do to mitigate further damage."
Homeowners should try to access insurance money first. If the damage is not covered, the homeowner will need to provide evidence that the insurance company was not willing to cover damages before making a claim to the disaster fund.
What's covered in the federal disaster fund?
Dean said you can't get help through the federal government's Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program for something that would have been covered by insurance, had you bought it.
"If you could have purchased, let's say, $10,000 worth of sewer backup coverage, that $10,000 is deducted from what you are able to get from DFAA," she said.
What other financial assistance is available?
The United Way, its agencies and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are meeting to discuss how short-term relief money will be distributed.
The province has contributed $500,000 and the United Way has raised more than $60,000.
"We now know who needs what," Lamey said. "That's a big thing today, to get the plan in place to move that money."
Lamey said it's vital for everyone with damage to call the municipal helpline at 902-562-4357 to be registered so officials can assess the total picture.
Mayor Cecil Clarke said the helpline has received 650 calls since it was created.
With files from CBC Cape Breton