Flooded? Get to know your insurance plan, expert advises

As flood waters begin to recede, residents of Ottawa and Gatineau are just beginning to assess the extent of the damage to their homes and businesses.

Many people assume they're covered for flood damage, but they might not be

Some homes managed to escape serious damage thanks to sandbagging efforts by residents and volunteers in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. (Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco /CBC)

As flood waters begin to recede, residents of Ottawa and Gatineau are just beginning to assess the extent of the damage to their homes and businesses.

Many of those affected in eastern Ontario and western Quebec are recovering from the second flood in two years, and are now contemplating another round of costly repairs.

While navigating the insurance world can be tricky, it's important for flood victims to understand the process, said expert Anne Marie Thomas, who works with

"Water is the new fire," she told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning. "When insurance policies were first created for homes, the major risk was fire, but now the major peril facing people is water."

Step 1

The first step is to contact your insurance provider as soon as possible, Thomas said. 

As recently as five years ago, flood insurance was relatively uncommon, so people who haven't looked at their insurance details for a while may discover their policy doesn't cover flood damage.

"First thing to do is to find out if you have the coverage," Thomas advised.

Collect evidence

Your insurer may not be able to inspect your home immediately after a flood, so it's vital to get an accurate record of the damage, Thomas said. 

"With water, the way things look today may not necessarily be how they look when the insurance adjuster gets there," she said. "Take some pictures, take some videos, just so you have it for your records what damage was actually done."

As soon as you've done that, contact your insurance provider to ask for a visit from an adjuster.

A patio set normally overlooking the Ottawa River is consumed by its waters at a home in Constance Bay during the floods. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Common misconceptions 

Even if you signed a new policy recently, most insurers don't include coverage for flooding or sewer backups as part of their basic packages. It's normally an add-on — something most customers don't realize, Thomas said.

If you do have coverage, your insurer will typically pay for your food and accommodation if you're forced out of your home, as well as covering damage to your property and belongings.

An Ottawa police officer conducts a wellness check at a home surrounded by water in Constance Bay. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Understanding your policy 

Most insurance policies have a cap, so know how much room you have, Thomas advised.

The average basement flood in Ontario costs the homeowner $43,000, so make sure your cap isn't any lower than that.

And just because you're high and dry this time, don't get complacent.

"If you weren't affected by the floods, now is a great time to check your insurance policy to see if you do have the coverage for a flood, should it happen," Thomas said.

Something else to remember if you live in a flood-prone area: some insurers will cancel policies if you make multiple claims.


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