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‘We don’t even exist’: Homeowners impacted by N.S. floods couldn’t get insurance answers

Click to play video: 'N.S. couple still dealing with home’s impacts from devastating floods'
N.S. couple still dealing with home’s impacts from devastating floods
WATCH: An elderly couple impacted by the Nova Scotia flash floods are wondering why there hasn’t been more support in the weeks since. They’ve been living in the upstairs of their home with no heat or hot water, while the basement below remains devastated from the late July storm. Skye Bryden-Blom reports. – Aug 10, 2023

A couple impacted by the Nova Scotia flash floods are wondering why there hasn’t been more support in the weeks since.

They’ve been living in the upstairs of their home with no heat or hot water, while the basement below remains devastated from the late-July storm.

Homeowner Matthew Strickland said they believe everything should be covered under insurance, but can’t get a straight answer from their provider.

“We’ve been paying house insurance for over 50 years — 54 years to be exact — and we’ve never made a claim in our lives,” he said Thursday.

“This is the first situation where we’ve ever come under and we get treated like we don’t even exist as people.”

Matthew and Barbara Strickland are searching for answers after their home was damaged by the flash flooding in Nova Scotia in late July. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

The couple says their basement is a write-off due to the flood damage from the storm that rocked the province on July 21.

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“My husband and I worked until one o’clock in the morning for two nights saving our pictures of our family and our wedding pictures,” Barbara, Matthew’s wife, said. “And we’ve been working off and on for the rest of them.”

On Thursday, volunteers with Team Rubicon, an international non-governmental organization specializing in disaster response, stepped in to help the Stricklands clear out their basement, after doing the same for their neighbours next door.

They were the “only people that showed up and did anything for us at all,” said Matthew.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia residents still awaiting promised aid 10 months after devastating floods'
Nova Scotia residents still awaiting promised aid 10 months after devastating floods

The couple, who are in their 80s, say they want to remain in their home despite having no heat or hot water.

“I have to boil water to get a bath and boil water for my husband for him — he can’t get a cold shower,” Barbara said.

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Both have medical issues and Matthew is currently battling blood cancer.

They said they just want answers.

“Our insurance company never gave us the courtesy of a callback after three or four calls,”  Matthew said, adding that every time he’s called he’s spoken to someone different, some of whom were in other provinces.

“Some (employees) have told me I’m fully covered, others said I’m not covered at all.”

Homeowners Matthew and Barbara Strickland continue to clean up after the late July flash flooding in Nova Scotia. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

In a statement late Friday, a spokesperson for Aviva, their insurance company, apologized for the delay in getting back to their customer and said they “understand how frustrating this might be.”

“Many trades and contractors are facing challenges with labour shortage from increased volume of claims following recent severe weather events in Nova Scotia,” the statement said. “We have followed up with our customer and advised them of the status of their claim.”

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The Insurance Bureau of Canada says water damage is complex with many forms of coverage — or it might not be covered at all.

“This could be the reason why insurers are taking a little bit longer to make a decision in regards to coverage,” said Gloria Haydock, the bureau’s consumer and industry relations manager.

“They’re looking for coverage where they can find it within the policy.”

The province says anyone impacted by the flood should apply for disaster financial assistance.

“Its primary focus is to provide a backstop for flood knowing that flood insurance is really not readily available, said John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office.

He says the city can do the same after some residents raised concerns over the absence of garbage bins for their belongings, which have been piling up on front lawns.

The city says it’s working on it.

“The municipality intends to make a claim through the Disaster Financial Assistance program for the July 21-22 flood, but the claim has not yet been submitted,” says spokesperson Laura Wright.

— with files from Alex Cooke

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