BAYSIDE, P.E.I. - For the first time in her life, Cheryl Waite finds herself facing the prospect of having no property insurance for her home – and that scares her.
The retired Bayside resident received a letter Sept. 13 from her longtime insurer, P.E.I. Mutual Insurance, informing her that her home no longer meets “minimum underwriting standards,” and her policy would not be renewed when it expired on Sept. 27.
“I was in shock. Complete shock,” said Waite. “I expected my insurance to go up, but not this.”
Waite recently made two claims on her policy, totaling about $24,000. The first incident took place in August 2017 and involved a water pipe bursting in her kitchen. The second was just two months later, in September 2017, and involved a problem with her home’s water-boiler heating system, which flooded the basement.
Both incidents were covered under her previous policy and her home was repaired by a company retained by P.E.I. Mutual.
Waite said when she met with P.E.I. Mutual about the reason for her policy not being renewed, the two nearly back-to-back claims were quoted to her.
This has left the retiree and her husband scrambling to find another insurance provider for their home, which was built in 2001 and which they purchased about 10 years ago.
So far, they have been unsuccessful.
Waite said she has tried a number of insurance companies and a couple of brokers, but none have been willing to offer her a policy without expensive repairs being completed first. For example, one company said they would issue a policy, but that her roof had to be re-shingled – regardless of whether it is already in good repair.
That stipulation in particular frustrated Waite.
“Like, come out and look at the roof, don’t just say (over the phone) it’s got to be done,” she said.
P.E.I. Mutual will not comment on specific client case files, or even confirm whether a particular person is a client, but general manager Blair Campbell did offer some general information.
The company’s underwriting standards are essentially the evaluation of risk they place on a property and the owners of that property. Both parties have to have a mutual understanding for a policy to exist. Though it is rare, sometimes insurers will choose not to continue that relationship, based on various factors, said Campbell.
In most cases, multiple claims on a policy are not reason enough for P.E.I. Mutual to decline a policy renewal, he added.
“We definitely do not have a policy to let policies lapse just because someone has had the misfortune of a loss or a claim, or even several claims. Every year we help many families and we pay out millions of dollars in claims, and we have very forgiving prior-claim policies.”
Amanda Dean, vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada – Atlantic, an insurance industry trade association, offered two pieces of advice for people who find themselves in situations like Waite’s.
First, keeping searching.
“There are about 40 companies selling home insurance on P.E.I.,” said Dean. “Absolutely shop around. Brokers sell for a number of different markets, a number of different insurers and not every broker sells for the same insurer. So even if it requires calling a broker in the next community over, we certainly encourage consumers to do so.”
When calling brokers, Dean said to ask who they are quoting for and make a list of companies from which you’ve received a quote. This can help narrow the search and avoid duplication.
Secondly, she said there are ombudsman services available to clients, from within insurance companies and by third parties.
An ombudsman is a person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems.
Dean recommends contacting an insurance company’s internal ombudsman first, as this can be a quicker process than the alternative. Such a process would review “what was done, what was said, and tie all that back to the policy,” said Dean.
There is also another option in the form of General Insurance OmbudService (GIO), which can be found online at giocanada.org.
Waite continues to examine her options, but finds her stress mounting the longer she goes without some kind coverage.
“All I want to do is stay in bed, I don’t even want to get up – because I know what I’m getting up to,” she said.