July 21, 2014 9:12 pm

Insurer pays homeowner to restore basement, 1 year after flood

TORONTO – Lisa Griffiths was home with her husband when the sewage started backing up in her basement on July 8, 2013. The musicians rushed to recover their instruments and some other precious items in the midst of the rainstorm that led to intense flooding. But in a matter of minutes, the lower floor of their 700-square-foot bungalow was under dirty water.

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READ MORE: Toronto flood 1 year later: One family continues to fight for compensation

“Nature is coming in, there is nothing you can do about it,” Griffiths told Global News on the anniversary of the flooding, which ranks as Ontario’s costliest natural disaster. Insurance claims are estimated at about $1 billion.

But one year after the flood, Griffiths and her husband were still at odds with their insurer, Toronto-based Aviva Canada. The insurance company had written a cheque for $12,000 to cover the cost of restoring the Griffiths’ partly-finished basement, which included a full bathroom and laundry room. Estimates from contractors pegged the cost of the job at more than twice the amount the insurance company’s adjuster had authorized. Griffiths refused to cash the cheque and told Global News the company had to do better.

“Aviva is obliged to hold up their end of the contract. We paid (our premiums) every month. They need to put the basement back to the level it was at,” she said.

Aviva Canada told Global News in a statement: “We have contacted our customer and recommended we meet to discuss her concerns on the matter.”

True to its promise, an Aviva Canada representative followed up with Griffiths, scheduled a meeting and further discussions took place. At that meeting, Griffiths also expressed her dissatisfaction that following the flood, Aviva Canada had not been proactive in arranging temporary accommodations and had not agreed to pay hotel and food costs directly, a practice followed by many other insurance companies. (She was later reimbursed for thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.)

But the issue of repairing the basement lingered for a year until Griffiths sought help from the media. Her email to Global News resulted in coverage of her plight and a change in attitude by Aviva Canada, which said this was the “first time” it became aware there was a disagreement.

“When did things change? When media got involved. We would not be in this circumstance if media had not gotten involved,” she said.

Late Monday, Griffiths opened the mail to find a cheque from Aviva Canada. She and her husband now have been paid enough to have a contractor restore the basement to its previous condition. She’s most looking forward to having a working laundry in the basement again. For one year, she’s taken soiled clothes to a coin laundry a few blocks away.

“I think I’m going to cry when I get the first load of laundry. I can go downstairs and wash the laundry!” she said, adding the living space of the house will double to almost 1,500 square feet when the basement is put back into use.

Griffiths says she’s owed an apology by Aviva Canada for stalling the settlement. She says she doesn’t expect one at this point. But she’s ecstatic that the money has arrived and credits Global News coverage for making the difference.

“It’s very unfortunate it took a call to the media to get this fixed. But we really appreciate your work and it’s what solved this for us.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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