Saskatoon

'It's not easy to live like this': Saskatoon woman living in partially demolished house

Gillian Snider has been camping in her own house. Seven months after a fire ravaged her Caswell Hill home, she only has one working power outlet, no lighting and no walls.

People living without stove, lighting or insulation awaiting lawsuit with insurance company

Gillian Snider is in a months-long fight with SGI after a fire ravaged her home in January. (Matt Garand/CBC )

Gillian Snider has been camping in her own house. Seven months after a fire ravaged her Caswell Hill home, she has only one working power outlet on the main floor, no lighting and no walls.

While the gutted house makes a great jam space for the local musician, living day-to-day can be tough. 

"It's like camping, but it's still not easy. It's not easy to live like this," Snider said. 

A fire in January severely damaged the house. It started in the attic and spread quickly, but the quick action of firefighters that day meant the bones of the house remained standing. 

Everything went as she expected in the weeks that followed. She'd owned the house for more than 20 years and had paid her monthly house insurance instalments to SGI. 

Four days after the fire, she and her roommates and household pets were moved into housing paid for by insurance. Then work began on her home.

The interior needed to be, essentially, gutted — the walls taken down, the major appliances taken out, the wiring and insulation removed. 

'We were completely and absolutely blindsided'

Then, one day in mid-spring, the work stopped unexpectedly. 

"It was about 75 per cent demolished. They had gutted it and there was still half the bathroom done, half the kitchen was done and all the shiplap was still up, all the wiring had been removed," she said. 

In this industry, there are —​ on occasion —​ disagreements between an insurer and customer about insurance contracts- Statement from SGI

She soon found out that, not only was her policy no longer covering the work on her home, but she and her roommates had to vacate the temporary house that SGI had been paying for. 

It turns out, she says, that SGI had discontinued her coverage. She was then forced to move back into her home, which among other things, had birds living in a hole on the third floor. 

In a legal fight over 'fine print'

Snider said SGI told her they had found some "fine print" in her policy that disqualified her from coverage. However, a spokesperson for SGI said they did not say that. Snider is now in a legal battle with the insurance company.

She said she doesn't want to get into the details of the court case while it's being argued, but that SGI's reasoning for cutting off her coverage has nothing to do with how the fire started or her payments. 

Gillian Snider's house was ravaged by a fire seven months ago. She is now living in partially demolished house as she takes SGI to court over a settlement. (Matt Garand/CBC )

In a statement, an SGI spokesperson said the insurance company is aware of the lawsuit and that the company "cares about our customers and we work hard to help them recover from losses."

"In this industry, there are —​ on occasion —​ disagreements between an insurer and customer about insurance contracts. This is unfortunate, and when it happens, we try our best to resolve them to the customer's satisfaction," the statement read. 

Preparing for winter 

Snider and her partner are stuck living in the house while the case winds its way through the courts. With no walls, there is little-to-no privacy.

One bedroom is essentially a tent. She still finds dust bunnies falling in the bathtub from the exposed rafters. As winter approaches, she is scrambling to get the place insulated and livable. 

"The fundamentals are just having heat, hot and cold water, and electricity and that's all we're expecting because we don't have a lot of money. We're musicians for god's sake," Snider said.

Friends have started online fundraising campaigns and are holding house concerts to help raise the money needed for those necessities.

But Snider said she's keeping track of everyone who contributes and will re-donate the cash if she ever gets her settlement from SGI.

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