July 8, 2014 9:57 pm

Toronto flood one year later: One family continues to fight for compensation


Lisa Griffiths says she gets a stomach ache every time it rains. A year after the torrent of water flooded Toronto streets and homes, including hers, Griffiths vividly recalls the feeling of seeing sewage bubble up into the basement of her south Etobicoke bungalow.

“You just feel like a tiny speck, you feel like nature is coming in your home and there’s not a thing you can do about it,” said Griffiths, a musician.

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Griffiths, her husband, and now two-year-old son were all at home when the flooding began. The couple rushed to the basement to scoop up what they could, including bassoons and assorted other valuables. But thousands of dollars worth of clothing and other goods had to be thrown out because of the damage.

Fortunately, Griffiths had plenty of home insurance, including sewer back-up coverage.

“We have a great plan, or so we thought,” she said. But Griffiths said dealing with the insurance company, Toronto-based Aviva Canada, has not been easy.

Initially, the company was sympathetic and receptive, she says. A third-party adjuster was assigned to the claim. The family could not live in the home because of sewage in the basement, so the trio had to move to a nearby hotel.

Aviva Canada paid for the first two weeks of accommodations. But Griffiths says after that, the couple had to pick up the costs themselves. The family had to spend about three months in the hotel. Several months later, they were reimbursed for hotel and meal costs.

But Griffiths says the process has been an ordeal, especially because she had recently lost her job during a maternity leave.

“I had no job, and no employment insurance, so I had zero income coming in. We had to fight to get any coverage for that,” she said.

Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says different insurance companies have different policies and practices to deal with claimants.

“That may vary by company in terms of how insurers will adjust those claims. They may provide you with payment upfront, they may establish a direct billing process for those additional living expenses, or they may reimburse after the fact,” said Karageorgos.

Griffiths said she and her husband had to arrange for crews themselves to deal with damage and to address mould growing in the basement. A year after the flooding, the basement has not been rebuilt. The family no longer has use of a second bathroom; the washer and dryer was damaged beyond repair. For the last 12 months, the family is washing clothes at a coin laundromat a few blocks away.

Aviva Canada declined to be interviewed by Global News, instead providing this statement after contacted. “It was just brought to Aviva’s attention today that there was a problem with this claim. In fact, our file on this claim was closed in the spring. We have contacted our customer and recommended we meet to discuss her concerns on the matter. ”

Griffiths says Aviva Canada sent her a cheque for about $12,000 this year to pay for basement repairs, which she refused to cash. She told the adjuster it was an unacceptable settlement because contractors who have quoted repairs say it will cost between $30,000 and $40,000 to frame, insulate, drywall and restore the basement. She says Aviva Canada should honour its commitments.

“Aviva is obliged to hold up their end of the contact,” she said. “We paid every month; they need to put the basement back to the level it was at.”

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