Spring flooding during COVID-19 pandemic

​With warmer weather arriving, snowmelt coupled with spring storms once again increase the risk of spring flooding across Canada. Provincial Emergency Management authorities have predicted certain communities will likely experience flooding and Canadians should be prepared.

Municipalities are already taking action to reduce the local impacts of flooding and Insurance Bureau of Canada is informing home and business owners about how they can prepare for the coming flood season to protect themselves and their property from damage.

During a severe weather event, everyone's priority must be their personal safety and the safety of loved ones and neighbours. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, emergency responders may have reduced resources, placing greater emphasis on individual preparation.

Insurance representatives are an essential service at this time and although they may not be available in person, they can still respond to your insurance coverage questions, as well as assist with any insurance claims.

Q. What about neighbourhoods or communities that flood?  Where will people go if they are evacuated?

In any emergency situation, it’s important to follow the guidance provided by local and provincial Emergency Management Officials.

Q. Governments are asking people to self-isolate and practice social distancing during the pandemic, as well as enforcing quarantine measures for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or who recently returned from abroad. If my home is flooded, or if there is an evacuation order, and I must leave for safety reasons, what are my options?

If your home becomes uninhabitable or local authorities issue an evacuation order due to flooding, please contact your insurance claims representative as soon as possible. If your homeowner insurance policy contains an optional flood endorsement, you may be covered for Additional Living Expenses, and will be compensated for expenses over and above your normal expenses.

Q. What if I can’t stay with family or friends because they are self-isolating?

If you are unable to stay with family or friends, temporary accommodation providers like hotels are open and are following local public health reporting protocols regarding people who are in self-quarantine or who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

Q. I want to have my home repaired as soon as possible. Are service providers such as contractors, electricians, plumbers or water damage specialists working during the pandemic? 

Emergency repairs are included as essential services in provinces where provincial Declarations of Emergency have been issued, to ensure the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings. Your insurance claims representative can help you find service providers that can attend to repairs as soon as possible under the current circumstances.

Q. My home or business has been damaged by flood. Is my insurance representative working and available to handle claims calls?

Yes! Insurance companies and their representatives are working to ensure business continues as normal as possible for customers. People who have been displaced by fire or flood continue to receive assistance from their insurer in order to obtain payment for basic living expenses or repairs.

While many insurance industry employees are working from home, they remain committed to assisting consumers during these uncertain times. 

Q. If my business is flooded, can I claim for business interruption?

Overland flood as well as business interruption caused by flood are available as optional coverage on commercial insurance policies. Contact your insurance representative to review how your policy will respond as policy wordings will vary as every business is unique. However, if businesses were closed or significantly changed operations due to COVID-19, this could impact the pre-flood loss revenues and in turn, your insurance claim.  IBC is encouraging those impacted by the flood to contact their insurance representative to discuss their specific situation.

Q. Is my vehicle covered for flood?

Damage to vehicles from wind, hail or water is usually covered if comprehensive or all perils coverage auto insurance has been purchased. This coverage isn't mandatory, so check your policy.

Q. If my home floods, can I start the cleanup myself?

If it is safe to return to your home, remember to maintain good hygiene and safety practices during cleanup efforts. Rubber gloves, masks, goggles, rubber boots and other protective gear are recommended.

Take lots of photos and/or videos to document how things look before you begin cleanup or temporary repairs. Create an inventory, including item descriptions and estimated cost of what was damaged or lost. The more detailed your list is, the better.

Throw out any food, including canned items, that has come in contact with floodwater. Check refrigerated foods for spoilage. Have utilities checked and restarted by professionals only.

Q. What if I can’t get protective equipment or proper cleaning materials – our stores’ shelves are empty of those products?

Do your best with what you have. Most professional restoration companies have the necessary equipment for cleanup.

Q. Can I choose my own contractor to assess my loss or damage?

Be cautious when signing repair contracts. Contractors should be licensed and/or certified, insured and reputable. Be sure to check references and credentials. Discuss payment terms before you sign anything. Your insurer will likely provide a list of preferred contractors to assist you. However, you are not obligated to use a contractor recommended by your insurer. You can use the service provider of your choice for the necessary repairs to your property. Before signing a contract, you should speak with your claims adjuster to find out how much of the estimated cost your insurer will pay.

Request that contractors provide written contracts containing detailed work descriptions and warranties for work completed and materials used. If the work is covered by your insurance policy, make sure the claims adjuster approves the work as well as the contractor before work begins.

Q. I rent a unit that has been damaged. Who is responsible to pay for the damage?

The landlord is responsible for ensuring the unit is in a habitable condition. In most cases, the landlord, or the landlord’s insurance company, will pay for repairs to the unit caused by an insured peril.
There is no set period for a landlord to repair a rental unit, unless an Environmental Health Officer has inspected the property and issued an order to the landlord. However, landlords should attempt to repair the unit within a reasonable time. Check the legislation regarding tenant rights and responsibilities as they may vary from province to province.

Tenants are responsible for their belongings. If you have tenant’s insurance, read your policy closely to see what kind of damage is covered and call your insurer if you have any questions.

Q. Can people volunteer to help? First responders and relief workers are already stretched too thin.

You should check with your local authorities about what you can do to help flood victims in your community. They are taking physical distancing and stay-at-home orders into account as they plan their response to this season’s floods.