Flood Damages: Does Your Home Policy Cover You?

May 02, 2019

It’s the time of year again where we see the devastation caused by flooding. To prevent damage to dislocation, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the risk, and the coverages available for flood damages.

In Ontario, floods can occur in several ways:

  • Heavy rain in a short period of time can overload drainage systems.
  • Snow and ice melt quickly. Add in rain, and the problem is magnified.
  • Lake waters rise because of melting snow, ice jam and rainfall.
  • Storm surges or wind can push water out of their normal shorelines, or boundaries.
  • Wind-driven ice damages your dock and boathouse.

A standard home insurance policy will not cover any of the flood damages listed above. However, you may be able to purchase flood insurance. This depends on where you live and what insurance companies are active in your area.

Overland Water Endorsement

The most common coverage available is an overland water endorsement. This covers damage caused by freshwater entering your home, whether it is from your property or at ground level. In general, if the water is sitting in an area that it usually does not sit and enters your home causing damage, the overland endorsement will cover the resulting damage. An example of this would be a subdivision that is flooded by a river that overflows its banks due to melting snow, combined with heavy rainfall.

Melting Ice and Snow

If the culmination of melting ice, melting snow and rain cause sudden and accidental damage to your home, you may be covered if you have the overland water endorsement. If this type of water damage happens every year, or your basement gets water in it every year, this will not be covered. It must be sudden, accidental and not re-occurring.

Lake Rising

Suppose the lake rises at your cottage and damages your dock and boathouse, in most cases, this damage will not be covered. By definition, this scenario is not overland water damage. This is because the water levels will have risen, but have not broken out of their normal boundaries. However, if you have more water than normal in your boathouse, this will not be covered.

For those who live on a lake, the wind can push water levels outside of their normal boundaries and shorelines. If this situation occurs while you have the overland endorsement and the water enters your home, you will have coverage.

In Ontario, there is currently one insurance company, The Guarantee Company of North America, that will provide coverage for your dock and boathouse if the wind pushes the ice into the structure. However, coverage is limited and expensive. Not all Brokers have these coverage options, so please ask about your coverage, limits and cost.

What does this mean for you?

Flooding and over-land water damage can be complex and confusing. Depending on where your home is located, this will impact availability and price. Homes located on a flood plain, may not be able to purchase any type of coverage. The closer your home is to a large body of water, such as a lake or river, will impact how much you pay for overland flood protection.

The above comments and general in nature and require you to speak to your broker. They will provide clarity and coverage that meets your needs as a homeowner. As spring flooding becomes normal, it is important that homeowners understand the risk, coverage, pricing and options available to them.

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