Cancer patient waiting for flood damage insurance

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An 84-year-old Ontario woman is hoping that a major insurance company will change its mind about refusing to cover the cost of flood damage to her home that occurred while she was out of town receiving cancer treatment.

Ivy Scotland says her home in Pembroke was flooded in January while she was staying in Ottawa receiving chemotherapy for blood cancer.

She says the flood was caused by a pipe that burst when temperatures plummeted at the beginning of the year.

She says her insurance provider, Grey Power Insurance, is currently refusing to cover the damage estimated at more than $10,000.

Scotland says she was never told of a clause in her policy that says holders won’t be covered if they’re away from home for more than four days and don’t have someone make checks inside the building during their absence.

She says Grey Power has agreed to revisit the claim and she’s expecting an answer later this week.

Scotland’s ordeal began last November when she was told that numerous chemotherapy treatments would be required to combat the multiple myeloma, or cancer of the plasma cells, that has now spread throughout her body.

Fearing that the 150-kilometre round trip would be too much in her condition, however, Scotland opted to follow her doctor’s advice and temporarily relocate to Ottawa during the course of her treatment, which is still ongoing.

She enlisted a neighbour to collect mail, shovel sidewalks and attend to other routine maintenance outside the house, assuming those precautions were all she’d need.

“When I left my house everything was perfectly OK,” Scotland said in a telephone interview from Ottawa. “I hadn’t the slightest idea that the weather was going to be what it was, and I never thought of getting someone to babysit the house.”

Six weeks after her treatments began, a prolonged cold snap that lasted through much of the winter caused one of Scotland’s pipes to freeze and ultimately burst.

Scotland didn’t have an opportunity to view the damage first-hand until weeks after the early January flood, by which time the furnace had been damaged beyond repair.

Shivering in the wreckage of her home, she said, was a shocking experience.

“From the top floor, the water came through down to the kitchen,” she said. “The ceiling in the kitchen collapsed, part of it, and the water got from there down to the basement.”

Scotland, who had made monthly payments to maintain a policy with Grey Power for years, approached the insurance company feeling confident that the flood damage would be covered.

Grey Power offered a preliminary damage estimate of $11,000, but informed her that she was not eligible for compensation since she had not engaged anyone else to check inside the home after the first four days of her extended absence. Scotland asserts Grey Power never informed her of the terms of this clause when she acquired the policy.

Grey Power spokeswoman Stephanie Sorensen said the company could not discuss the particulars of Scotland’s case, but said the reason for her absence is being taken into account.

“Given the exceptional circumstances, we are working directly with our customer to resolve the matter as quickly as possible,” Sorensen said in an email. “We appreciate this is very important to our customer and we are committed to taking the necessary steps to repair her home.

Such assurances come as a relief to Scotland, who says she still hopes to return home once her cancer treatment is completed.

“I hope that something will happen so that my house will get back in order,” she said.

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