Winnipeg woman fighting insurance policy preventing her from housing international students

Vicki Rempel says she's been housing international students for 20 years and has never been denied home insurance until recently. Joe Scarpelli/Global News

A Winnipeg woman says her long-time home insurance policy is no longer allowing her to house international students, despite having done so for decades.

Vicki Rempel has been opening her home to international students for 20 years. For most of that time, she said, CAA Manitoba has been her home insurance provider, but she recently got a call from an agent saying the company will no longer provide her coverage as long as she has the students.

“I was shocked,” Rempel told Global News.

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Rempel, who currently has two teenage students from Nigeria and Austria living with her, said she asked the agent why the sudden change of policy, but hasn’t been given a clear answer.

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“What is the risk?” Rempel said she asked the agent.

“How did they find a risk factor large enough to not just charge you to a higher premium, which might be reasonable if there was a risk, but to completely cut you off?”

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A spokesperson for CAA Manitoba told Global News the company does not cover owners or occupants of rooming, boarding or student housing, adding the policy is not new.

Rempel, however, argued that response and provided Global News with a copy of her home insurance agreement from 2019, which shows her CAA insurance broker acknowledging that she had three international students living with her at the time.

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After reviewing the situation further, CAA then said miscommunication and an improper process being followed was the reason for the confusion.

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“For this reason, it was not flagged in the system and relayed back to the insured that CAA Insurance doesn’t cover this type of risk. Recent communication at the time of renewal also did not follow appropriate training guidelines,” the CAA spokesperson said in an email.

“We are reviewing product and procedural training for CAA brokers on all our lines of business to ensure they are aware of coverages and exclusions to prevent this type of miscommunication in the future. We are also working directly with the insured to explore coverage options with other insurers.”

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Insurance broker Tiffany Reider, vice president of Reider Insurance, said mistakes can happen.

“As time goes on, maybe one agent was dealing with it and then the broker changes and as files move along in the office it can get missed,” she said.

Rieder said many of her clients house students, but their options are limited when it comes to finding an insurance company willing to provide coverage.

“The regular marketplace usually doesn’t offer it, but there are still options,” she said. “It might be a little more expensive.”

The reason, Reider said, is because the risk of filing a claim for fire damage, for example, increases with the number of people living under one roof.

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However, Rempel said she still plans on trying to get CAA to reverse its decision before she considers starting over with a new insurance company.

“I might have to find another insurance provider because there’s no way I’d like to stop this. The students add so much to my life.”

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