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Archive for April, 2017

Insurance company comprehensively beaten

Judge rules exclusions for ground, surface water did not apply to flood caused by dam breach.Not all insurance policies exclude coverage for floods entering a house from the outside.

Recenlty I wrote about a $2-million claim for catastrophic water damage submitted to their insurance company. Axa Insurance and the court denied the claim on the basis that the policy excluded cover for damage by ground water or surface water.

Shortly after the column appeared, I heard from a litigation lawyer in Huntsville, Ont., who wrote to tell me about a recent flooding case in which his clients succeeded against the insurance company.

Ms Wight owned a home in Huntsville. A small creek is located just under 14 metres from her home; a man-made lake and dam covering up to 4.85 hectares are a 20-minute walk along the creek.

On April 16, 2013, a six-metre section of the dam burst on a neighbour’s property, causing a flash flood down the creek. Water rose nearly two metres above ground level. It washed away part of the pavement and damaged four driveways. The force of the water overturned a 2,549-kilogram metal food smoker.

Water, mud and debris entered Wight’s home and garage. It damaged part of the concrete block wall in her garage.

Wight had a comprehensive insurance policy with Peel Mutual Insurance Company. It covered damages arising from accidental events, but not against loss or damage caused by water unless the damage resulted directly from water entering “through an opening which has been created suddenly and accidentally.” The policy did not, however, cover loss or damage caused by surface water.

Peel Mutual denied the owner’s claim on the basis that there was no coverage for damage caused by ground water.

Wight sued Peel Mutual and took the matter to court last year, asking for judgment in her favour without a trial, based on the wording of the policy.

To most people, insurance policies have strange wording. First, a policy outlines what it covers. Then it lists exclusions to coverage, saying what it does not cover. Then it outlines exceptions to the exclusions, bringing certain perils back into the area of covered risks. It’s left to lawyers and judges to figure out what is, and what is not, covered.

In his decision in the Wight case, the judge ruled that the damage resulted from the deluge of water which entered Wight’s property. He found that the policy excluded coverage for damage caused by ground water unless there were any exceptions to the exclusions.

The judge then pointed out that the policy says that although water damage is generally excluded, certain risks were in fact covered. The policy, he noted, covered water damage caused by the sudden and accidental escape of water from within a swimming pool, water main, sewer, drain, sump or from an opening which has been created suddenly or accidentally by a peril not excluded elsewhere in the policy.

The judge found that the dam was in effect a water management system and that Wight’s comprehensive policy provided coverage for the accidental escape of water from a sewer or drain. The exclusions for ground water and surface water, he wrote, did not apply since the water from the dam was neither ground water nor surface water.

The lessons from this case:

  • Know what your policy covers
  • Ground water exclusions do not always apply
  • Home insurance comes in three varieties: basic, broad form and comprehensive. Always choose comprehensive coverage. It costs more and the coverage is much wider.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents. Bob is kind enough to allow us reproduce here some of his most interesting cases.
He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.


Getting ready to sell

Janis Weaver of Personal Touch Home Cleaning has some excellent tips…

HOME SELLER MAXIMIZER

Increase the selling price of your home with professional cleaning

FRONT – walkway, flower beds, lights and front porch.

EXTERIOR – front door, sidelight windows, transom, mailbox, house numbers, front light fixture, exterior mats and threshold.

FRONT ENTRANCE – floor, baseboards, closet doors, mats, walls, mirrors, light fixtures and switch plates – if needed, consider giving the walls and baseboards a fresh coat of paint.

HALLWAY – free of “stuff”, everything tidy, clean and clutter free. Replace hallway area carpets, if needed.

KITCHEN – cupboards (both sides and edges), shelves, handles, kick plate below cupboards, glass surfaces, minimal small appliances on counters, backsplash, countertops, baseboards, appliances (inside and out) including hood range. Store away excess items in cupboards so they appear spacious; add new mats and tea towels; fresh flowers and a bowl of lemons to give a fresh touch.

BATHROOMS – Need to be immaculate! Glass showers polished, mold removed from grout and caulking, tiles scrubbed, cupboards and shelves (interior and exterior), light fixtures and switch plates; exhaust fans dust free, toilet brushes and plungers stored out of sight. Fresh towels and “spa-like” decor.

FAMILY ROOM – Decluttered and simplified; bookshelves tidy and organized (at least one-third open space); store away personal memorabilia and extra “stuff”; fireplace (gas or wood) cleaned; furniture and window coverings in good condition (or replace); floors and baseboards, make sure there’s sufficient lighting.

BEDROOMS – Declutter, organize and tidy closets; store away any clothing not needed; clothes neatly hung and shoes organized; furniture and mirrors polished; personal items safely away; upgrade bedding, if need be.

BASEMENT – Depending on whether it’s finished, clean and tidy as best possible. Store offsite all extra possessions and boxes of “stuff” not needed and clean as thoroughly as possible. Don’t forget to clean the laundry appliances and top of hot water tank!

THROUGHOUT THE HOME…

Cobwebs removed.

Marks, dirt and dust on walls, baseboards and door trim. Best investment – a fresh coat of paint.

Light fixtures and fans dusted, switch plates clean and undamaged; ensure all light bulbs work and match.

Mousetraps, ant traps, extermination products out of sight.

All window sills, light fixtures, door trim and baseboards dusted.

Pack up and store offsite extra furniture, appliances, decor, clothing and memorabilia to give the feeling of spaciousness.

All closets, drawers and shelves should only be two-thirds full.

Interior/exterior windows, tracks, and screens (including patio doors) should be professionally cleaned.

Carpets, drapes and blinds should be professionally cleaned, including stain removal and if necessary, replaced or removed completely.

Deal with any mould or odour issues (pets, smoking, paint, etc.). Unpleasant smells will deter potential buyers. Keep cat litter boxes cleaned regularly and, if necessary, hire a professional to remove offensive smells – it may even require some items being replaced, i.e. drapes, furniture, carpets.

Clean everything thoroughly, top to bottom, inside and out, and keep it clean until closing day. Exhausted & overwhelmed? Help is only a call away!

CELL:         Janis Weaver  – 613.816.3669

EMAIL:      Janis@PersonalTouchHomeCleaning.com

WEB:          www.CleanHomesSell.com

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