Lesson from BC Floods: The Importance of Overland Flood Insurance

Preliminary reports suggest the 2021 flooding in BC will result in less insured damage than the 2013 Southern Alberta floods.

This is not necessarily because the damage was less extensive.

One reason is that the damage heavily occurred in areas not covered by private insurers, such as highways and farmland (the government pays for transportation infrastructure and also covers crop insurance).

But another factor is that only a portion of those who experienced property damage had the right coverage in place.

This unfortunate event serves as a critical reminder about the importance of overland flood insurance—what it covers and who can benefit from it.

What is Overland Flood Insurance?

Overland flood insurance is a relatively new coverage that was largely introduced following the 2013 floods in Calgary and neighbouring municipalities.

A common misconception is that this policy only provides coverage in cases where property damage is caused by an overflown body of water, such as lakes, rivers or streams.

In actuality, overland flood insurance covers damage caused from surface water accumulation that seeps in through doors, windows and cracks. This includes property damage caused by heavy rainfall and the rapid melting of snow or ice jams, in addition to flooded bodies of water.

For example, the 2021 BC floods were caused by a disastrous combination of record rainfall and melting snow that accumulated on frozen ground.

Who Can Benefit from Overland Flood Insurance?

In short, most everyone.

Floods are the most common natural hazard in Canada, and they are often caused by torrential rains or the sudden melting of snow or ice jams. Floods also cause more property damage in Canada than any other natural disaster.

While home, condo and tenant policies cover some water damage (i.e., from a burst pipe), they do not cover damage caused by overland flooding. It’s also worth noting that home, condo and tenant policies do not cover sewer backups caused by overland flooding.

All of this underscores the importance of adding an overland flood endorsement to your home, condo or tenant insurance.

Bear in mind, some individuals who reside in low lying areas or near bodies of water may be declined overland flood coverage as insurers perceive the risk of damage as too high.

Reduce Your Risk of Flood Damage

The reality is that flooding is commonplace across Canada, particularly in spring when melting snow and rainwater accumulate on still-frozen ground.

That’s why it is critical to take necessary precautions to protect your property from flooding. This includes:

  • Performing basic home maintenance, such as re-sealing weather stripping, cleaning and repairing eavestroughs, ensuring downspouts drain at least three metres away from your house and more.
  • Investing in flood mitigation measures, such as installing sewage backflow prevention devices, installing a sump pump, covering window wells and more.
  • Landscaping your yard, including grading the land so water moves away from your property, improving water absorption through regular lawn maintenance and more.

Contact your broker today if you have questions about overland flood coverage or about your current home, condo or tenant insurance policy.

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