Sudbury

Spike in insurance claims from ice damming, snow load on northern homes

The harsh winter weather is taking its toll on homes across northern Ontario, and that's leading to an increase in insurance claims. The two biggest problems this winter is snow load and ice build-up or ice damming.

Insurance experts say some policies cover the problem while others do not

Ice damming is when a thick layer of ice forms on the edge of a roof, as seen on this Sudbury home. The ice prevents melting snow from draining off the side, instead causing the water back up under the shingles and then down into the ceilings and walls inside. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

The harsh winter weather is taking its toll on homes across northern Ontario, and that's leading to an increase in insurance claims.

The two biggest problems this winter are snow load and ice build-up, or ice damming.

Ice damming is when ice forms on the edge of a roof, and prevents melting snow from draining off the side. The water leaks through shingles and down through ceilings and walls.

Some insurance policy holders are finding out the hard way that their policies don't always cover these problems.

It's...critical for homeowners to review their policies with their insurance representatives to make sure they are familiar with what type of coverage they have.- Pete Karageorgos, Insurance Bureau of Canada

"It's always important, critical for homeowners to review their policies with their insurance representatives to make sure they are familiar with what type of coverage they have, and for what potential damage could occur to their property and their belongings," said Pete Karageorgos, Director of Consumer & Industry Relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

He says having these winter house problems covered under insurance depends on the insurance company and even the policy itself.

"It really varies and in some cases it may even vary within the same insurance company. They may offer different levels of protection, different levels of coverage."

"The contract spells out what types of events or perils you're covered for," Karageorgos said

Lisla Beaton is a claims manager with Cambrian Insurance. She says this winter has been especially busy for insurance claims connected with snow load and ice damming on homes. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Lisla Beaton is a claims manager for Cambrian Insurance in northern Ontario. She says she advises clients to read their insurance policy contract, and if they're still unsure, contact their insurance company to clarify.

"As a broker I'm thrilled if somebody calls and says 'can we go over my policy?' Anything that somebody can do to educated themselves to what exactly they have is to their benefit," Beaton said.

"Most of the time the coverage is there and I can help you, and that's a good feeling," she said.

Beaton describes insurance as reactive not proactive.

"Anything you can do to help alleviate the problems: shovel off your roof, do what you can to protect your belongings."

"It's up to you to do some of the work to protect your belongings, but if you don't, then the insurance is there," she said.

According to Beaton, this has been a bad winter for insurance claims for weight of ice and snow or ice build up, but every year has its own challenges.

She cited the Christmas Eve wind storm in 2015 when many clients lost shingles from their roofs and filed claims to repair the damage.

In an email to CBC News, The Co-operators Insurance stated that between Jan 1 and Feb 25, in an area between Sudbury and Ottawa, they had five times as many ice dam reports compared to the same time period last year.

Beaton couldn't give an exact number of claims for Cambrian Insurance this winter, however she said it's been a very busy season.

"In the last couple of weeks, with the claims from auto and property combined, the insurance industry had never seen such an influx of claims at one time."

Listen to the interview by clicking the audio link below.

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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