Home Insurance

Home insurance might not cover parts of house built without permits, couple learns

By: Lisa Coxon on March 6, 2019

In October 2017, a tree fell onto the home of Brian Carlson-Graves and Daniela Malandruccolo, leaving it badly damaged. The couple had bought the home, which is located on the shore of Lake Scugog, near Port Perry, two years earlier.

The couple filed a home insurance claim with Aviva, their provider, to have the necessary repairs covered. Aviva arranged for an engineering firm to go assess the damage. Once it was determined what repairs were needed, the firm submitted a permit application to the Township of Scugog so it could do the repairs. That’s when the bad news arrived.

According to CBC Toronto, the Township of Scugog denied the engineering company the repair permit because, it was discovered, about two-thirds of Carlson-Graves’ and Malandruccolo’s home had been built without the proper permits in the first place.

The couple had purchased the home in 2015 in a private sale. They had no idea at the time that a previous owner had done renovations on the house between 2005 and 2008 — without the right permits from the local government.

“It was quite a shock,” Carlson-Graves told CBC Toronto. “You always assume possibly maybe a deck is built without a permit or something. Those things happen. But having over half the house built without a permit is just ... I don't know what to say about that.”

Carlson-Graves and Malandruccolo had filed a claim in 2017 with Aviva for the damage caused by the tree, and were told they had two years from the filing date to submit receipts for the necessary repairs. That deadline, October 2019, is fast approaching, but because the couple haven’t been able to secure any permits, no repairs have been done — calling into question whether or not the cost of the repairs will be covered at all.

Malandruccolo asked Aviva for an extension, but the insurer denied her request via email. Aviva said that the couple can either submit the receipts on time or sue the insurance company. However, an Aviva spokesperson told CBC Toronto in an email that sometimes, extensions can be granted in extenuating circumstances. The company won’t be able to determine whether Carlson-Graves and Malandruccolo qualify for an extension, though, until the deadline gets closer.

The couple has been living in a rented house for almost a year-and-a-half. Their original house, CBC Toronto reports, “has been deemed structurally unsound,” and needs to be rezoned. For now, all they can do is wait and see what happens. It’s ultimately up to the Township of Scugog to determine what happens next.

“Unfortunately, the homeowner and our building official learned that there were two significant additions and a large deck constructed without building permit approval,” the Township wrote in a statement to CBC Toronto. “Because of that discovery, the home owner will need to submit ... a planning application ... with applicable drawings; and a structural engineer's report inspecting the areas constructed without a permit to ensure they are in compliance with the building code.”

Carlson-Graves and Malandruccolo just want the nightmare to end.

“Ultimately, Scugog township councillors vote on it,” Carlson-Graves told CBC Toronto. “So hopefully, they'll give us some slack and let us keep what we purchased at least.”

“I’m hoping it doesn’t take that long,” added Malandruccolo, “but maybe I'm an optimist. I’m anxious to go home.”