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Preparing for a stormy future

Burnt Islands residents have plenty of questions but few answers

Wanda and Gary Taylor are among the Burnt Islands residents who are worried about future weather events, and are still looking for answers, especially considering the recent Phase 2 announcements in Channel-Port aux Basques. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

BURNT ISLANDS — Small communities along the Southwest coast are still trying to piece things together, waiting for insurance payouts and assistance before renovating, rebuilding, or relocating entirely. A contractor estimated the damage to Wanda Taylor’s home at approximately $44,000. “Everything in front of us is gone. And the gentleman to the left of us, I don’t say he’s much more than 10 feet (away). He is across the road from us to the left, and I mean, his house is torn down, condemned, and forgot about it, I’ll say,” said Taylor. “We have no insight into what’s next. We did get a call from a government representative with the repair package where we can take 100 per cent of the funds, the $44,000, plus a little extra to do the repairs, get a contractor to come and do the repairs. Or we could take the 70 per cent and do it ourselves. I guess whatever happens after that happens, and I mean, that sounds great. I’m really appreciative that they’re able to offer that package, I guess, to fix our repairs. But my question is, this is obviously going to be an ongoing issue. This could be 100 years before it happens again. It could be ten years, and who knows? It could happen again in September.” Insurance concerns are top of mind if another extreme weather event were to happen. “We’re only a young couple. We’re only in our late thirties. Who’s going to be responsible, and who’s going to be there to help me out the next time around? I can’t look at a small picture as such. I mean, I’ve got to look at the bigger picture. Right now, I’m already having little to no coverage with my insurance because they wanted me to sign a wind endorsement, which I refuse to sign because, like I told them, I’m in Newfoundland. There’s a gale of wind every day,” said Taylor. “I pushed it off. I did write a letter. They recommended me to write a letter to my underwriter and see if they can push it off. I did manage to get pushed off to, I’d say, three months or so, but last month they automatically enforced the endorsement. I have very little coverage. Basically all I’ve got right now is fire and theft.” An insurance endorsement is also referred to as a rider, and it is a change to the insurance policy that adjusts your coverage. Adding an endorsement to your existing insurance contract usually means adding or modifying the coverage you have. “Wind coverage is pretty standard in terms of home insurance policies right across the country. So wind coverage would include anything from a tree falling on the home, damaging the roof, piercing the side of the home, smashing a window, and then of course rain and any other damage that would result, that type of thing,” explained Amanda Dean, Vice-President, Atlantic, with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). “Now, there are different types of home insurance policies and different insurers (who can) offer, certainly, a basic home insurance policy versus one that maybe has a few more frills, and then you can always purchase endorsements. So, for example, if you cover those items up to about $5,000, the amount could vary. If you need more coverage than that, you can always purchase an endorsement.” Insurance policies can cover a variety of unexpected events. “I have heard of insurers paying for the damage that trampolines have caused. So absolutely, if there’s debris flying around, smashes through a window, those types of things,” said Dean. “In the case, for example, of a home that had a roof that was 40 years old or more, and the insurer has requested that the homeowner upgrade the roof in order to remain insurable, as there was poor maintenance, for example, that could potentially mean that damage to that particular roof might not be covered. So if there was something that was known and the insurer and the homeowner had a discussion about, that could be a scenario, because insurance covers those things, which are sudden and accidental. It’s not designed to cover maintenance.” There are always a few similar items included in a standard policy. “The basic run of the mill home insurance policy covers fire. So if the home were to burn to the ground or sustain any damage due to fire. Wind damage, like those trees causing damage to the structures. There’s liability, so if someone comes onto your property, falls and hurts themselves and sues you, that is covered. Contents coverage, and especially in the case where you have a home that burns to the ground, you’re insured for an amount for the structure and you’re insured for an amount of the contents. That amount you’re insured for contents can vary,” explained Dean. “If your standard policy is a percentage of the value of your home, but you have more things in your home, you have higher value furniture or what have you, you can also increase those limits. Additional living expenses is also covered in a typical home insurance policy. Those are those expenses when you are subject to a mass evacuation by a civil authority, any expenses over and above what you would normally be paying. So hotel bills, laundromat bills, those types of things. Some insurance companies do include some water coverage automatically. With some companies you do need to purchase an endorsement.” Water coverage isn’t limited only to flooding. “Examples of water damage would be flooding due to lakes and rivers, freshwater flooding into the home as well as sewer backup, sewer and wastewater systems being overwhelmed or the septic systems backing up to the home, sewer backup coverage would cover if those systems failed and backed up as well. Certainly, we’ve had a lot of questions about coastal flooding, and that is not something that is very available in Canada at this time. We’re hoping that’s going to change and are certainly encouraged by the national flood program that was announced by the federal government in the most recent budget, because that flood program would be applicable to those in those high-risk areas, which would include storm surge.” The possibility of another storm doing more damage similar to Hurricane Fiona is a significant worry for Taylor. “I’m not in search of a payout. I’m just in search of answers to basically what’s going to happen next. If I stay here, am I going to have written consent that I’m going to be taken care of the next time around,” said Taylor. “It’s a lot of what ifs and what’s next. It’s never ending. Every day is looking for answers that nobody seems to have. I know that’s the process and I’ve waited since September, so it’s been going on nine months now waiting for answers, so I did give it some time. To this point it’s frustrating, especially after this week with Port aux Basques getting their designated areas all sorted out and hearing talks of people that are going to be losing their homes and they had no damage, and here I am with $44,000 worth of damage and no answers.” Because of the location of their home and the damages, she isn’t confident that her home could be re-sold for any real value. “We bought this home. We spent thousands and thousands of dollars, like anybody would, I’m sure, but, I mean, this was an apartment building. We renovated this completely to a two story, four-bedroom house with an attached garage,” said Taylor. “It’s not like it’s a small home where somebody’s going to be able to come in with a personal loan or cash money and purchase it. If we should ever happen to decide to leave in the future on our own, who’s going to buy it? Because they’re not going to be able to get insurance. I’ve got insurance. I have since we bought it, and I’m already having trouble with mine, so once I try to sell that, the next person looking to buy is not going to get coverage.” Taylor worries that the residents of Burnt Islands are not receiving the type of representation that Port aux Basques is. “I don’t mean to bash anybody, but I personally don’t feel like our town is standing up enough on our behalf. I will put my hats off to Brian Button. He’s been amazing for the town of Port aux Basques. I’ve called our town numerous times and asked, ‘do you have any answers of what’s going on? What’s next? What’s the next process?’ (I’m told) ‘We don’t know. We don’t know anything.” Taylor has reached out to the province too. “Even to the government representative that I’ve spoken to last week, Brenda Manning, who was on my case, she had no idea. When I explained to her about this gentleman that was to the left of me that had to lose his home because of the location and the damage or whatever, she had no idea any of this was going on. Nobody seems to know what’s going on, period, in our town. I would imagine that this would come from our council to relay this information to the government officials.” On June 29, Burnt Islands Mayor Alfred Taylor said the town itself is still awaiting answers. “It’s a process, and I know it’s taking it a while, and I understand what these residents are going through because I know the people that were displaced had to come first, right?” He is entirely sympathetic, but has little news to offer since the initial February 6 meeting with residents. “You can only kick horse so many times for answers. And like I said, once it was in the government’s hands, municipalities and the provincial and the federal government,” said Taylor, “it was basically beyond the town’s control for to go and go around and try to promise things that, you know, wasn’t going to happen.” The DFAA did not respond to inquiries before deadline.

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