Ottawa

Tornado victims fear rising insurance rates

As the dust settles from the tornado that touched down in Ottawa's east end Sunday, some residents are worried they could be in for a second hit — from their insurance companies.

Sunday's twister damaged homes, downed trees

Debris litters an Orléans yard on June 3, 2019, the day after a tornado struck the area. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Kim Lussier has had some bad luck with her car lately.

Lussier's Hyundai sedan has been rear-ended three times in the last year. Then, during Sunday's tornado in Orléans, a tree fell on it, smashing its rear window.

Now the car sits partly covered by a blue tarp in her driveway, and Lussier is fretting over much her insurance coverage will cost after this latest claim.

I don't want to be a hostage of the insurance policy.- Kim Lussier, Orléans resident

"It's hard because you don't have a choice," she said Tuesday. "You need insurance, and if you apply elsewhere they want to know your history of claims, so there's no getting around that.... I don't want to be a hostage of the insurance policy."

Some of Lussier's neighbours on Wincanton Drive have similar concerns about their insurance rates. On Tuesday, fallen branches and other storm debris still lined the quiet residential street off Jeanne D'Arc Boulevard N., near Petrie Island and the Ottawa River.

A large tree on Lussier's property leaned precariously toward her neighbour's.

"I'm supposed to retire in a couple of years and I've had all of this [bad] luck with extra expenses that impact my savings and my future," Lussier said.

The rear window of Kim Lussier's car was smashed by a falling tree during Sunday's tornado. It's the latest in what's been a string of bad luck for the Orléans resident. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Waiting 'all we can do'

Nearby, Mike Mullen was surveying the hole in his roof left by Sunday's sudden storm. He said he contacted his insurance provider right away.

"We're just kind of cleaning up and waiting, really. That's all we can do," Mullen said.

He was taking a more fatalistic approach to the possibility of rising insurance rates. "It's an extra cost every month, right? But I don't know what else we can do. It's what it is."

On nearby Lawler Crescent, Debbie Harris said she and her husband are also awaiting quotes regarding their damaged roof.

"I'm not overly concerned at this point, though I am hearing more tornados and things like that [could strike the area], so I would imagine at some point we're going to see differences," she said. "Definitely, I would think they'd go up before they'd go down."

Mike Mullen said he contacted his insurance company immediately after the tornado. The storm left a hole in the roof of his home. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Will rates go up?

Pierre Babinsky, director of communications and public affairs with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, confirmed the storm damage could impact rates, depending on the insurer.

"Generally, premiums will go up once the insurer needs to adjust them to compensate for whatever they have to pay to settle claims," Babinsky said.

"If it's a costly year for the insurer and he's paid more than he's collected in premiums, then there's a fair chance that he will raise premiums."

Babinsky said in 2018, insurers paid nearly $2 billion in settlements related to severe weather across Canada, a historically high amount.

He advises tornado victims to get in touch with their insurance companies as soon as possible, and to carefully document everything.

Kim Lussier says she's hoping to retire soon — but if interest rates rise, her plans may be in jeopardy. 1:00

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