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Ottawa-area tornado victims waiting for insurance payouts as winter approaches

By: Jessica Mach on October 23, 2018

Victims of the tornados that hit the Gatineau and Ottawa regions in September are growing increasingly frustrated as they try to navigate a sluggish insurance system and repair their homes before winter arrives.

Winds that reached speeds of 265 km/h and 220 km/h per hour during the regions’ first and second storms, respectively, knocked over trees and devastated homes, causing more than $295 million in insured damage, according to a statement released Monday by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). Ottawa saw $192 million in damages while Gatineau saw $102 million.

IBC noted that insurance companies had sent extra resources to the regions in the storms’ aftermath, to help handle the high number of claims. The organization did not name specific insurers.

Customers are nonetheless growing frustrated with the long claims process, which typically involves meticulously documenting all their belongings, expenses, and damages. These tasks take a fair amount of time even under less urgent circumstances. IBC’s director of consumer and industry relations told the CBC that part of the issue may be the nature of insurance itself.

“It can be a challenging process,” he said. “[There's] sometimes a lack of awareness of how involved the process would be that can be frustrating for homeowners.”

But the length of the process has grown increasingly worrisome as winter approaches.

In Arlington Woods, a neighbourhood in Ottawa, hundreds of pine trees fell during the storms, damaging the roofs of houses. As residents wait for their insurance payouts to come through, they have been covering gaping holes with tarps — a provisional solution that will not be adequate during Ottawa’s harsh winters.

One resident, Nick Noreau, said that the claims process is taking up a lot of time that people may not necessarily have.

“It's almost like a full-time job, to be honest with you,” he said. “If you don't detail all the things and look into things and research things, then unfortunately, you could be out of pocket.”

Sean Devine, president of the Trend Arlington Community Association, is also unimpressed with the claims process.

“I keep on hearing from insurance companies that they're overwhelmed,” he said.

“I understand that, but at the same time, you're an insurance company. You need to have contingencies for this kind of thing.”