Thanks to climate change, insurance companies are dealing with a flood of claims and cottagers often discover they’re out of luck.
My mother was terrified of candles at our cottage. This place would burn to the ground before the fire trucks could get to us, was a common refrain. She was probably right. Our cottage, like so many, isn’t easily accessible for emergency vehicles and, built entirely of wood, was vulnerable to flames.
These days, however, we’re keeping a wary eye on the creek that runs behind our cottage and the Great Lake that stretches in front—especially in spring as the water rises. And my father ensures our sump pump is always in working order.
Lake Muskoka cottager Liz Beatty is similarly vigilant as “boathouses get flooded like they never used to,” she says. Pete Karageorgos, Director, Consumer and Industry Relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada puts it this way: “Flooding is the new fire.”
Though the insurance industry was largely built to deal with fire claims, today insurance claims for flooding make up roughly three quarters of payouts. And while governments expect to respond to natural disasters that cause property damage, these extraordinary weather events are becoming, well, pretty ordinary. What’s more, the Ontario government announced in its recent budget that it was cutting funding in half to conservation authorities’ flood management programs—funding that enabled conservation authorities to issue flood warnings and work on flood response and floodplain management.
Meanwhile, many of us cottagers vacation in waterfront dwellings constructed when the threat of water levels rising from climate change wasn’t recognized as the threat it is.
Unfortunately, insurance for seasonal dwellings often doesn’t include flooding, says Karageorgos though, he says, it’s worth talking it over with your agent about both flood insurance and overland flood insurance. You might be able to work it into your policy, though be prepared. It won’t be cheap.
What else can a cottager casting a leery glance off their docks to do? The federal government’s “Flood Ready” web page offers some tips, including:
- Make sure eavestroughs are free of debris and that downspouts discharge at least two metres away from your cottage foundation.
- During or immediately after a heavy rain, take a look around your cottage and see if/where water is pooling. If there is pooled water, regrade the property so that water flows away from the cottage.
- Install and maintain sump-pumps and install a battery-operated backup.
Click here for the flood ready website.