04/05/2013 09:46 EDT | Updated 06/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Langley fire highlights need for rental insurance

About 100 seniors are struggling to put their lives back together after a blaze broke out Wednesday at a housing complex in Langley, B.C.

One person died and 12 people were taken to hospital, including three in critical condition, after the fire broke out on the second floor of the four-storey complex at 203 Street and 54 Avenue.

Margaret Mitcham says she only had time to grab her purse and get out when she saw the smoke.

Not only did Mitcham escape uninjured, but she also just taken out rental insurance, meaning she'll be able to replace anything that was damaged by fire or water.

"I had just insured my contents insurance .. sheer luck, you know," she told CBC News.

On Thursday, officials allowed some of the 100 seniors forced out of the building back in, but only long enough to pick up a few things.

Many of the dislocated seniors are still saying at local hotels, but the provincial emergency service will only cover that cost for three days.

Mitcham says many of those who lived in the building don't have insurance.

"It's low rental here, you know, and some of them don't have content insurance."

Only $20 per month

Insurance Bureau of Canada spokesman Serge Corbeil says many renters routinely ignore advice to get rental insurance because they falsely believe they don't have anything worth insuring.

"Sadly, it's when you lose everything you realize how much you had. That type of insurance will allow you replace that," said Corbeil.

He notes policies, which run for as little as $20 a month, will cover living expenses if your home is destroyed by a fire.

"It will also help you pay for those additional living expenses, so if you can't live in the building you occupy before for awhile, your insurance will help you cover the cost of putting you in a hotel for some time."

Corbeil estimates up to half of all renters don't carry fire insurance.

Investigators still don't know how the fire started, but fire officials have confirmed there was no sprinkler system in the 30-year-old building, which was constructed before sprinklers were a safety requirement.

Dave Sinclair, president of the B.C. Seniors Living Association, said Thursday it is time the province stepped in and upgraded the buildings with sprinklers.