Overland Water Insurance Offers Peace of Mind Against a Rising Threat

Overland Flood InsuranceWith flooding incidents here in New Brunswick as recent as January 2018 fresh in our minds, many homeowners and renters have been turning their minds to flood insurance.

In the past, home insurance and renters insurance has only offered protection against water damage caused by bursts and leaks, but not for inundation of water from rivers, streams, lakes, other waterways, blocked drains and downpours.

In fact, since 2016, protection against these perils, known as overland water insurance has been available in New Brunswick.

It's important to know however, that, in terms of definition, overland water protection is not the same as flood insurance. Overland water insurance refers to freshwater inundation, while flood insurance refers to coastal, seawater flooding, which is still not insurable in Canada.

Still, the introduction of overland water coverage is a significant advance in homeowner protection and merits consideration.

What Is Overland Water Insurance?

Usually available as an endorsement to your existing property insurance policy, overland water insurance covers you against the cost of damage or losses to your home and its contents arising from fresh water like heavy rain, overflowing waterways and heavy run-offs.

For example:

  • Unusual or rapid accumulation of ground water that enters your home through basement windows, doors or garage doors.
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or run-off of surface waters from any source, including torrential rainfall
  • The rising, breaking out, or overflow of a fresh water body, such as a river, stream, or lake.

Policy wording usually makes clear that the inundation must be due to a sudden event not a repeated seepage that might be caused by a leak or foundation weakness -- though this might be covered in your main owners or renters policy.

What Are My Overland Water Insurance Options?

Overland Flood InsuranceMost properties are eligible for overland water coverage but there are a few exceptions relating to homes in especially vulnerable areas. Rates also vary according to the risk profile of your home. The property insurance experts at Pearson Insurance will be able to let you know if you're eligible.

And although coverage is added as an endorsement to your existing property policy, with most companies you don’t need to wait until renewal to add it.

However, all insurers insist either that you already have an endorsement protecting against sewer back-up in place or purchase it at the same time as your overland water insurance.

Sewer back-up insurance only covers you against non-storm related backflow from sewers or septic tanks. It doesn't protect you if the backflow results from a sudden flow of external groundwater.

The deductible for your overland water coverage typically follows the same deductible as your home insurance policy. Your deductible is the portion of the loss that you are responsible for, before insurance kicks in. This can range from perhaps $1,000 to possibly $10,000 or more. Obviously, the higher the deductible, there would be some saving in the cost of your insurance.

Thereafter, you will be covered for damage or loss up to the limits you have chosen which is sometimes the policy limit. Again, with most insurance companies, you can select the level of your coverage.

Do I Need Overland Water Insurance?

With average precipitation of over 1,000 mm (1,170 mm in Sussex), New Brunswick is subject to frequent downpours and snowstorms.

The effect of this is to raise waterway levels to danger points in certain periods. Furthermore, ice melt and blocked drains can raise the risk of significant surface water even when it's not raining.

The bad news is that climate change scientists think the risks might become greater. Severe weather incidents that used to happen on average every 40 years or so are now predicted to occur every 6 years. And the amount of rainfall in Canada as a whole has increased by 12% in the past 60 years.

While global warming could reduce snowfall and frosts, the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) notes in a recent report that both the frequency of winter thaws and the intensity of precipitation events have increased.

In other words, we're likely to see more rapid thaws and more intense rain storms than we have had in the past, bringing the threat of swollen waterways, ice-jam flooding and overflowing drains.

Against this background, the need for overland water insurance is likely to grow in the coming years.

There have also been some suggestions, though they haven’t been put to the test yet, that emergency relief may be limited or may not be available to people who have declined the opportunity to buy sewer backup and overland water coverage.

Obviously, this type of insurance endorsement is not compulsory, but adding it would seem to be a prudent step for the realistically-cautious property owner or tenant.

Even if you live on a 2nd or 3rd floor, or in a high rise apartment building, you still might need coverage if you have to move out temporarily, or if you store personal property at ground or basement level.

Incidentally, if you're interested in learning more about climate change in our province, you can download this review from GNB: https://tinyurl.com/gnb-climate

How to Get an Overland Water Insurance Quote

As mentioned, this type of coverage is added as an endorsement to your existing property insurance policy, so it will affect the total premium -- but probably not by as much as you might expect unless you're in a high-risk area.

You can obtain a quote free and without obligation from Pearson Insurance by calling
(506) 432-1550 or you can email us at info@pearsoninsurance.ca.

Coverage can be quickly added to your existing policy but don’t wait until a flood threatens before trying to obtain this insurance.

We're also happy to answer any other questions you might have about protecting your home and its contents with insurance.