Canadian homeowners can expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a flooded basement this spring, especially if their home insurance plan doesn’t include adequate flood coverage.
A flooded basement costs an average of $43,000 to repair, according to the latest numbers from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). Flood insurance can help cover that cost, but older plans won’t help at all if the water comes from heavy rainfall, according to Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.
“People should call today to find out what insurance coverage they have for their basement,” Feltmate told Global News.
Most traditional flood insurance plans only cover flooding from a backed-up sewer, and do not apply when the water comes in through a basement wall or window — commonly known as overland flooding. That’s why homeowners should specifically check to make sure they have overland flood insurance, which insurers only started offering within the last four years. Most plans cost a few hundred dollars annually.
“Historically, overland flooding was not overly problematic in the country,” Feltmate said. “But with the bigger storms we’re experiencing today due primarily to climate change … we’re getting more overland flooding.”
A drowned basement can be a nightmare, but even a bit of leakage can cause long-term damage in the form of mould and cracks to your foundation.
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Severe weather caused $1.9 billion in insured damage last year, according to IBC statistics. It was the fourth-most expensive year on record, even without a single catastrophic disaster like the 2013 Calgary flood or the 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray.
Summer storms caused more than $240 million in insured damage across the Prairies last year, IBC says. Toronto suffered $80 million in insured damage after a flood last August, and a storm caused more than $85 million in damage across Quebec and Ontario last April.
Major disasters cost Canadian governments $3 for every $1 in damage covered by insurance, IBC estimates.
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Even if you are covered for overland flooding, Feltmate says it’s critical to know what your cap is for damage. For example, a person with $10,000 worth of coverage would still be on the hook for more than $30,000 in the event of a full basement flood, he says.
Longtime homeowners should check in to make sure they have the new overland flood insurance, even if they’ve never had an issue, Feltmate said. He recommends inviting an insurance adjuster over to help you figure out how much coverage you need for your basement.
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Feltmate also recommends being proactive with your insurance coverage, because climate change is making flooding more common across the country.
“The weather of the past is not a predictor of the weather of the future,” he said. “Do not think that just because I’ve never experienced flooding in an area, that I’m not going to experience it going forward.”