Advertisement

Grand Forks flood victim on brink of bankruptcy highlights need for disaster insurance solutions

Click to play video: 'Grand Forks flood victim on brink of bankruptcy highlights need for disaster insurance solutions' Grand Forks flood victim on brink of bankruptcy highlights need for disaster insurance solutions
WATCH: Some flood-affected homeowners in Grand Forks , who are not on the buyout list, say they're falling through the cracks of the flood recovery system. Shelby Thom reports. – Dec 17, 2019

This is Part Two of a four-part series called Grand Forks: Cost of Disaster. The next article will be published on Wednesday. 

Derek Fillion says he is on the brink of bankruptcy, juggling two mortgages after losing his Grand Forks, B.C., home to catastrophic flooding in May 2018.

Fillion received $62,000 in provincial Disaster Financial Assistance but the payout didn’t account for home improvements and wasn’t enough to rebuild.

After spending 5.5 months living in a fifth-wheel trailer on their flooded South Ruckle property, Derek and his wife Sandra Benjamin used the DFA money towards a down payment on a new home.

Derek Fillion and Sandra Benjamin’s home was torn down as it wasn’t salvageable. Submitted

Fillion told Global News he isn’t on the buyout list so they’re off the radar and falling through the cracks of the emergency recovery system, now drowning in debt.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s a cautionary tale for those living in high-risk flood zones as Fillion wasn’t covered by his home insurance policy.

READ MORE: Grand Forks flood buyout woes highlight gaps in B.C. emergency management policies

“When we first got the insurance, I don’t think it was even discussed,” he said.

Derek Fillion at his South Ruckle property where his home once stood. Shelby Thom\Global News

Grand Forks insurance broker John McNamara said he travelled to the Insurance Brokers Association of BC annual general meeting in May 2018 advocating for insurance solutions.

He said residential overland flood insurance is a new and optional product that is not widely available in smaller communities, with coverage limitations and homes on flood plains may not be eligible.

Story continues below advertisement

McNamara said the insurance industry should create a universal residential overland flood insurance policy, similar to fire coverage, as losses due to flooding continue to mount.

READ MORE: Government non-committal about boosting flood buyout packages in Grand Forks despite desperate appeal

“Maybe water should be like fire and everybody has to have the coverage in residential insurance, so that people who have low exposure to a loss from that water damage, they would pay a proportionately smaller premium, but everyone paid into it and people who needed that coverage would find that coverage a little more affordable,” he said.

McNamara said under a standardized policy, premiums would be scaled based on risk, resulting in a larger pool of funding to pay out overland flood claims.

Click to play video: 'Some Grand Forks residents unable to return home one year after devastating floods' Some Grand Forks residents unable to return home one year after devastating floods
Some Grand Forks residents unable to return home one year after devastating floods – May 28, 2019

“We have to come up with either an insurable solution that is sustainable because insurance companies collect premiums to pay for the losses. If we’re going to expect insurance companies to pay more out in claims from flood events and forest fires and these other types of natural disasters that are becoming more common and more costly, it’s got to be done in a sustainable way,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is scrambling to find insurable solutions to increased losses caused by natural disasters.

“Canada’s insurance industry has seen a rapid rise in the cost of insured damage in this country due to events associated with climate change,” said vice-president Aaron Sutherland.

“Things like storms, floods and wildfires. We have seen payouts for those events rise from just a few hundred million dollars annually to being at or above one billion dollars each and every year in this country so climate change is really having a dramatic effect.”

READ MORE: Millions spent on Grand Forks flood recovery, but buyout plan still up in the air

Sutherland said the insurance industry is working with senior levels of government to create a national flood program.

“How do we create a flood insurance policy that is available and accessible to all Canadian homeowners and that’s going to require public-private partnership of some kind where (we) can all come together to make sure that even those folks living at highest risk have access to flood insurance in the future,” he said.

Sutherland said governments need to take a hard look at mitigation and land use policies, including managed retreat and moving people and buildings away from known risks.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: In an extended interview Aaron Sutherland, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s vice-president, says the industry is working with senior levels of government to develop a national flood plan in the wake of mounting losses.

Click to play video: 'The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Aaron Sutherland talks home flood insurance' The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Aaron Sutherland talks home flood insurance
The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Aaron Sutherland talks home flood insurance – Dec 17, 2019

“We know we’ve built and we are living in areas that are very high risk and we really need to think and have some frank and difficult conversations about where we live, about where we built our communities,” he said.

“If there are portions of our communities that are in areas that are such high risk that it simply doesn’t make sense to build in those areas following flood events, so Grand Forks is a good example,” he said.

Some insurance companies like Westland are already making overland flood insurance mandatory as part of a home insurance package, but sales representative Sarah Strom said those living in high-risk flood zones would likely receive minimal coverage in the event of a flood.

Story continues below advertisement

An insurable solution could be years away, leaving flood-affected homeowners like Fillion to flounder.

He’s listed the old property for sale and is trying to recoup some of what he’s lost.

“I just need to get rid of that property,” he said.

Sponsored content