Flooded: What can you do about it?
Most of the people affected by flooding are under-insured or aren't covered
Michael and Jackie Washer have been living in a hotel for a week, and the bills are mounting.
Overnight last Monday, their waterfront home in Cumberland became surrounded by the Ottawa River.
"Awful, it's been nothing more than awful," said Jackie remembering the panic waking up and seeing the water all around the house.
"[Michael] said, 'We ought to leave, get dressed!' Well I don't move very fast, but I moved quick when he said that."
As the flooding risks destroying their home, thoughts turn to what happens next — and how to pay for it.
"Nothing. I'm purely on my own," said Michael.
"So I'm paying for the hotel now, and we'll clean the mess up when the river goes down and see how we survive."
Most people flooded not covered
The truth is most people living on waterfront properties in Quebec and Ontario are likely either under-insured or have no flood insurance at all, according to a local insurance broker. Instead, victims of the flood will be have to depend on the provincial disaster relief assistance offered by the Quebec and Ontario governments, as well as the Red Cross.
- City of Ottawa flood information page
- Ontario Disaster Recovery Assistance
- Quebec Ministry of Public Safety's flood information page
So-called "overland flood" insurance, which covers this kind of natural disaster, has only been available the last few years, according to Brian Erwin, an insurance broker and the president of the Ottawa Insurance Brokers Association.
For the most high-risk property owners near the waterfront, sometimes there is no coverage available for flooding, or when it is available, it could cost twice or more than their existing policy.
So a home worth an average $600,000 with a current premium around $1,500 may have to pay an additional $1,500 or more to add the "overland flood" insurance, according to Erwin's experience selling this sort of coverage.
And after the dramatic flooding this season, trying to get this type of insurance in the future may be a challenge, said Erwin, because there is now evidence that serious flooding is possible.
With climate change, Erwin said, extreme weather events are now expected to occur more frequently than in the past.
"So they're thinking things are going to reoccur every five years now."
Expect everyone's insurance rates to rise
In addition, after the all the damage is assessed throughout the region, everyone's insurance policies could see a hike.
Erwin points to how the Toronto flooding in 2013, which cost insurance companies almost $1 billion, affected everyone's premiums across the province.
"Insurance losses are shared by all," explained Erwin. "So if one particular risk has a big claim, everyone shares proportionately. And that's hard to explain to people who say, well I wasn't affected by that claim so why is my premium going up?"
Provincial assistance programs
Homeowners can turn to limited coverage available through the provinces assistance programs, which homeowners must fill out themselves.
In Quebec, residents in several municipalities, including Gatineau are eligible for financial aid to help pay for damage to homes not covered by insurance.
Across the river, The Disaster Relief Assistance for Ontarians program, is available to anyone facing flood damage.
The program covers many costs associated with flooding, including the clean-up, and replacing and repairing essential property.