Home Insurance

Ottawa tornado causing insurance woes for homeowners

By: Jessica Mach on June 5, 2019

On Sept. 21, 2018, Mark MacDonald and his wife Karen went out for pizza. When they returned, they found their home in Craigmohr Court, Ottawa, destroyed.

The MacDonalds’ home — believed to be the largest and most expensive of the homes damaged by last fall’s tornado — was demolished altogether in March.

“It’s frustration, aggravation and slowly osmosing into anger,” MacDonald told CTV, describing how he feels looking at the now-empty lot.

The MacDonalds’ property was one of many Ottawa homes that were severely damaged by the September storm. But the couple is not alone, either, in how frustrated they feel dealing with the aftermath. Since September, the couple has been battling with their insurance company, RBC Aviva, to get their home repaired.

“We paid our insurance, we thought insurance would remove the stress of anything that could possibly happen and instead it has added stress to our lives,” MacDonald said.

A big point of contention comes from a discrepancy between how much the MacDonalds think repairs will cost, and what RBC Aviva wants to pay out. While the MacDonalds’ rebuild quote totals $1,772,976.00, the insurance company estimates that the home would only cost $1,493,649.14 to rebuild. This estimate fails to account for the home’s finished basement, garage, pool, landscaping and damaged home contents, MacDonald said. “I feel like they are playing games with us.”

An Aviva spokesperson told CTV that the company is “electing to trigger Appraisal under the Insurance Act” due to the “significant variance” between the estimates.

“Broadly speaking, when value disputes like these occur, and when both sides want a quick and unbiased binding decision, an independent appraisal process is often a viable, fair and timely option,” the spokesperson added. “We therefore welcome and will abide by whatever the outcome of that process.”

Dunrobin homeowner Grace Moyer-Campbell is similarly frustrated. Since the roof of her home was destroyed by the storm nine months ago, she and her family have been living in a rental while waiting for Moyer-Campbell’s insurance company, The Personal by Desjardins, to start repairs.

The company had promised to repair the roof in the winter, so that the home would be ready for a spring move-in date. Moyer-Campbell is still waiting.

“Our roof was tarped six times and water just kept coming in,” she said, adding that the home still lacks insulation and continues to harbor moisture.

“The door frames are now shrinking, the hardwood floors are shrinking, the granite countertops are cracked.”

In response to requests for comment, Desjardins said that several factors were affecting how quickly the company could start the repair process. These included the severity of the damage, the high volume of claims in the area and the availability of materials and contractors.

“Desjardins’s insurance brands received over 1120 claims in Ottawa, Gatineau and Nepean from the severe weather events in late September 2018,” a spokesperson said. “We have closed the majority (75%) of these claims on behalf of our clients and are working diligently daily to close the remainder.”