More than half of homeowners' insurance claims stem from water damage, broker says

Windsor-Essex homeowners have to pay more than they used to for sewer coverage, due to an increasing number of storms that cause problems for people and their basements.
John Comisso, a veteran insurance broker who is based in Tecumseh, says water damage now accounts for more than half of homeowners' claims. (CBC)

The more storms Mother Nature dishes out, the more problems homeowners have with their sewers and basements.

And insurance companies serving homeowners in Windsor and Essex County are taking a harder line on what coverage they can offer and what their customers must pay to receive it.

John Comisso, a veteran insurance broker based in Tecumseh, said water damage issues now account for the lion's share of all claims from homeowners.

"Water damage claims now count for more than 50 per cent of all homeowners' claims," he told CBC News in an interview on Tuesday, ahead of a storm that was expected to hit the region overnight.

"That's quite a bit — years ago, fire was the number one cause of damage. Now it's water damage."

Asked to explain the reason for this major shift in claims from homeowners, Comisso said we are simply getting more storms than we used to.

"A lot of it has to do with the frequency of the storms and I think you could even extrapolate that it's got to do with climate change," he said.

Comisso said "we're getting 20 times more storms now than we were 20 years ago."

However, Environment Canada says it has recently looked at the trends in heavy rainfall events and there were "no significant changes" in the Windsor region between 1953 and 2012.

Comisso said that insurance rates for local homeowners have been climbing for several years, as has the cost of sewer backup coverage.

'Taking a much closer look at it'

In general, Comisso said these insurance companies have been increasing the costs of sewer backup coverage and in some cases restricting what they offer, depending on past incidents in a given area.

"They are just taking a much closer look at it," he said.

Comisso said that at one time, homeowners did not have sewer backup coverage — in part because basements were not a major part of the living area in a home as they are today.

"Years and years ago, a basement was just a basement — a place you had your furnace and perhaps your appliances to do the laundry, but not much else," he said. "Today, it's a whole different ballgame."

This change in basement usage has helped drive up the cost of sewer backup claims, which Comisso said now average $35,000, with property and content damage included.

Comisso said that homeowners can take steps to prevent damage to their homes. These include installing backup systems for their sump pumps, as well as having a sewer backup alarm installed. Backflow valves can also prevent water from backing up into one's home.


  • This story has been updated to include comment from Environment Canada on heavy rainfall events in the Windsor region.
    Nov 20, 2015 12:06 PM ET

With files from the CBC's Dale Molnar


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