Ottawa residents battle with insurance companies over derecho damages

‘I feel very belittled by my company’

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OTTAWA — Most people in Ontario and Quebec quickly moved on from the mayhem caused by a major windstorm that pummelled the country’s most populated corridor in May.

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Linda Leger is not one of them.

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Leger, who lives in the eastern Ontario municipality of Prescott-Russell, is among a number of people battling with insurance companies over storm repair costs and facing the looming winter with severe damage to their homes.

When the derecho hit May 21, the chimney collapsed onto the roof of Leger’s home and debris from downed trees blew through her propane inserts severely damaging her home’s heating system.

The winds — which gusted to as high as 140 km/h — blew threw her house as she madly tried to close all her windows.

Six months later Leger says not a single repair has been done.

“At this time, the chimney still remains on the roof and I have no heat in my home and now I’m worried about the water pipes freezing,” said Leger who grows more concerned as winter approaches.

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After months of back and forth with her insurance company, Dejardins, she has yet to receive any news about how much she will get for repairs.

“I feel very belittled by my company,” said Leger.

The Canadian Press reached out to Dejardins Insurance last week but has not received a response.

Leger said she tried to investigate possible compensation from provincial disaster assistance programs like the one Premier Doug Ford promised in May but doesn’t think she’s eligible.

The chimney still remains on the roof and I have no heat in my home

Linda Leger, an Ottawa resident

Ford announced a disaster recovery assistance program for Ontarians in May to help residents with repairs. To be eligible for the fund, municipalities had to write to the province to declare the area in need of the fund.

On the application website it said, “applicants with insurance may be eligible for additional payment under the program only if insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the essentials.”

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Several contractors and engineers who have come to examine Leger’s home estimated the cost of repairs are anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million.

I would be out of pocket $30,000 to have my house repaired and I won’t do it. I can’t afford it

Andrew Lussier, an Ottawa resident

Ottawa and surrounding municipalities have written letters to Premier Doug Ford urging the province to open the province’s disaster recovery assistance program to their areas. But it has yet to roll out and Ottawa and other cities have received no response for their inquiries.

The ongoing battle with insurance companies isn’t unique to Leger.

Ottawa resident Andrew Lussier said his insurance company, the Personal, which is owned by Dejardins group has been ‘lowballing’ him and refuses to pay for the full cost of damages.

“I would be out of pocket $30,000 to have my house repaired and I won’t do it. I can’t afford it,” said Lussier.

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Half of Lussier’s porch was been destroyed and the other was completely torn out of the wall. His main concern is the two cracked rafters which he’s afraid might not be able to withstand the weight of the snow come wintertime.

He said contractors estimate the repairs will cost $130,000. The insurance company has offered to pay $99,000.

He says there’s conflicting ideas between what the work the insurance company thinks needs to get done and the work the contractors say actually needs to be done.

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“My house is gonna look like a jigsaw puzzle from two different puzzles,” said Lussier.

Lussier has been serving in the military for 35 years and has been paying insurance to the same company for the last three decades. With his retirement coming up in under a month, paying $30,000 out of pocket is not in the budget.

The last time he spoke to his insurance company was three weeks ago, and he hasn’t heard from them since. His contractors say they will need about eight to 10 weeks to finish the job, not including ordering the materials to fix the home.

Lussier’s said Councillor Catherine Kitts, who happens to be his neighbour, has struggled to get any response from the government when it comes to supporting residents and municipalities.

The city is also still waiting for the province to make good on its promise to cover the city’s recovery costs, which are estimated to be about $20 million, including fixing damage to municipal property and debris cleanup.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.



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