Water damage claims in Toronto have doubled in number during the past decade and now account for 40% of all home insurance claims compared with 20% ten years earlier. This puts them at number 1 on the claims list, displacing fire which has been pushed down to 37%. All this has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket, and even then not all incidences of flooding are covered. Claims totaled around half a billion dollars for 2012, according to a report from the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“Every year we seem to see more [catastrophic rain storms],” says Wayne Ross, an insurance expert at Aviva Canada, explaining that this means a weather event resulting in a lot of water. Part of the reason for this is climate change, with global warming the primary culprit in the intensification of the hydrological cycle. And of course, the more rain, the higher the risk of flooded stormwater drains, backed up sewers and rising water tables, all of which lead to flooding and other plumbing problems for Toronto homeowners.
Urban sprawl combined with aging sewer infrastructure is also a primary factor in causing plumbing problems in Toronto – not just flooding. Ross says the typical subdivisions currently being built don’t make provision for the runoff from big rainstorms, which ends up overwhelming sewers that were created to handle much smaller loads of household wastewater.
Higher Home Prices / Premiums
The higher the value of the property, the more the insurance claims are traditional. And with the recent real estate bubble, prices are still well-placed and new owners, in particular, are concerned about the value of their homes. If a house has a previous history of flooding, insurers are likely to hike the premiums to protect their interests. That’s if you can get insurance cover, of course; in Canada, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover overland flooding. So if the river rises and runs over into your home, you aren’t covered unless you have specific insurance for that risk. However, if a tree falls on your house and water coming in through the damaged section causes basement flooding of your Toronto home, you’re covered for that.
“Fancy” Finished Basements
The current trend toward making finished basements an extension of the living area means more homeowners are fitting out the area, says Ross. This applies not only to quality furnishings and expensive electronics such as home theatre equipment but also to the personal effects that residents are starting to keep in their basements. The more items stored in the area, the greater the water damage is likely to be. While basement waterproofing is a fairly standard measure against plumbing problems in Toronto, many homes don’t yet have adequate protection.
Claims are Preventable
Ross believes the majority of water damage claims are preventable and suggests homeowners do the following:
- Keep the roof shingles in good repair, and install a vapor membrane as a second layer of protection
- Fit a backwater valve in the basement that prevents the sewer backup from entering the area
- Ensure the gradient of your property slopes away from your home
- Clear snow around the foundation, door and basement windows regularly during winter
Keeping the number of claims down will help keep your premiums lower as well as keeping your home intact and safe. Contact your local plumber for an inspection and advice on preventing basement flooding and other plumbing problems in your Toronto home.