Some homeowners refused insurance after 'largest fire loss' in Canadian history
This is pretty sick
KELOWNA, B.C. (CP) - Dozens of homeowners throughout southern British Columbia are being refused house insurance because their properties are near wildfires.
Even residents who want to rebuild their homes razed by raging fires are complaining that they are being denied insurance, Kelowna-Mission MLA Sindi Hawkins said Thursday. "I find it reprehensible that big insurers have done this," said Hawkins, who is also B.C. Health Planning Minister.
"They are trying to put their lives together and I think this is not the time for clients to be treated that way by insurance companies."
Hawkins said her office has heard from dozens of residents throughout Interior British Columbia, complaining that insurance companies are denying new homeowners insurance and longtime insurance holders are being rejected to renew insurance for their homes.
Lindsay Olson of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said her office is trying to help the dozens of rejected residents near fires get insurance.
But that is proving to be a difficult task when the Canadian insurance industry is facing its biggest ever payout for fire claims, she said.
"We are looking at the largest fire loss in Canadian history and insurers are not looking to absorb more loss unnecessarily," she said.
"We are working to find coverage for some of these people."
Olson said anyone who is now building a home near the B.C. wildfires are being refused house insurance.
She also said those who have already purchased homes near fires and have not yet bought house insurance are also out of luck.
Olson recommended that those people who have already signed purchase agreements and haven't yet bought house insurance should try to postpone the closing date of those deals.
She suggested that home purchasers should try to convince current homeowners to extend their insurance policies.
"We are trying to work with them to get that resolved," she added.
Insurance companies have been inundated with requests from homeowners near wildfires to get first-time insurance on their homes, Olson said. But they definitely won't be able to get house insurance, she said.
Homeowners who had insurance on their homes for many years are also having problems because two major insurance companies pulled out of British Columbia a year ago, saying they would only honour existing insurance policies.
Brokers, she said, are scrambling to find insurance for homeowners whose annual policies are up for renewal but they are hitting walls if the residents live near wildfires.
"As this has occurred, the brokers are now caught in the situation of finding new insurance companies," she said.
Hawkins said she has talked to several constituents who live near the Okanagan Mountain Park fire in the Kelowna area who are caught in that situation.
"Can you imagine - the fire is raging .*.*. and they walk into their insurance company here to be told that the major reinsurers have pulled out?"
The B.C. solicitor general is asking that anyone who is having problems getting house insurance report it to his office, she said.
Premier Gordon Campbell was also informed of the situation and is not pleased, she added.
"He was clearly disappointed and we are not going to leave people out," she said.
The Canadian Press, 2003
08/28/2003 20:32 EST