Eileen Walsh has not been able to live in her own home for a year.
She and her son fled their bungalow in North Wiltshire, PEI, in the early morning hours of Saturday, September 24, 2022. Post-tropical storm Fiona was hitting the island.
“Water was coming out of outlets, ceilings and the sound system in my house,” Walsh said. “You could see water forming between each piece of Gyprock throughout the house. It was pretty scary.”
At first, mother and son lived in a hotel. In the 12 months since then, the family has bounced from one apartment to another.
“I still haven’t fallen asleep with it. “It’s very emotional, because I don’t know if I’ll ever go home,” Walsh said.
Last fall, Walsh contacted his insurance company to begin the process of approving repairs. A restoration company put a tarp on the roof and the flooded interior of the house dried out and came loose from the studs. But since then, Walsh said his insurer has been silent.
I never thought it would take so long.-Eileen Walsh
“It’s approved; why can’t it be built?” Walsh said. “When I found a contractor for November, I thought we would be at our house in January. I never thought it would take this long.”
Due to a lack of communication from his insurance company, Walsh says he lost two contractors he had hired to perform repairs. And in the meantime, the rain has caused even more damage to the structure that used to be his home.
“I’ve lost sleep thinking, ‘Tomorrow it’s going to rain and there’s going to be more damage,'” Walsh said.
The new normal?
The Insurance Bureau of Canada recognizes that there are not enough insurance contractors or adjusters to deal with times like this.
“It’s hard to find roofers. It’s hard to find drywall installers and electricians,” said Gloria Haydock, consumer and industry relations manager for the office in Atlantic Canada.
Between the fallout from Fiona and the ongoing storms, fires and floods across the country, both contractors and insurance companies are overwhelmed.
“It’s unusual. We don’t normally see it to the extent that we’re experiencing it,” Haydock said. “However, what’s to say that won’t be the norm in the future?”
While insurers work to hire more adjusters, the industry is changing along with the climate. Haydock expects rates could rise due to the increased frequency of severe weather events like Fiona.
“With so many payments – $800 million in Fiona alone – there will most likely be some change in rates,” he said.
“It just looked like a war zone.”
As the anniversary of the storm approaches, Walsh isn’t the only one still waiting for repairs.
The basement of Lucie Lamoureux-Newson’s Wheatley River home is still damaged by Fiona’s water. It’s an event that she says traumatized her husband, who was home at the time. When she returned from a work trip, Lamoureux-Newson was shocked by the damage.
“I was absolutely shocked. It looked like a war zone. I had never seen anything like it in my life,” she said.
Since then, he has had difficulty getting a claim approved through his insurance company, as well as finding contractors to make repairs. Ultimately, Lamoureux-Newson received a $7,000 check from her insurance company. But she says it’s nowhere near the amount it would take to do what needs to be done.
“It was a life interruption and it still interrupts us a year later,” he said.
On top of that, Lamoureux-Newson’s insurer has told her it will not renew her insurance policy when it expires next month, because there is too much risk.
“That’s why you have insurance, so you can file a claim, so you can get back to normal,” he said. “It is a vicious circle”.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that in situations like Lamoureux-Newson’s, it’s best to compare prices with different companies.
“What may be excessive risk for one insurer is acceptable risk for another,” says Haydock.
But so far, Lamoureux-Newson hasn’t found a company willing to take that risk with her home. A lack of hope is something she and Walsh have in common.
“We trust our insurance provider to have our back, and they don’t have our back,” Lamoureux-Newson said.
At this point, appraisers have told Walsh that his house will need a complete reconstruction. But she doesn’t know when or how that will happen.
“I’ve had other contractors say they can do it in three years,” he said. “I don’t want to wait that long. I want to be back home.”