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Cancer patient learns Grey Power will now pay for flood damage

04/22/2015 10:00 EDT | Updated 07/16/2015 12:59 EDT
An 84-year-old woman from Pembroke, Ont., says she's glad her insurance company has now decided to cover flood damage to her home incurred while she was receiving chemotherapy.

Ivy Scotland said Grey Power Insurance has done a complete about-face after a senior adjuster visited her home Tuesday. The visit followed a CBC Go Public investigation.

"I feel good about it, that at least my house is going to be restored and the insurance company has come up with something that is satisfactory to me," Scotland told CBC News by phone on Wednesday morning.

Grey Power originally ruled that the extensive water damage caused when a pipe burst in January could not be covered under Scotland's long-held policy. The company argued that Scotland had failed to put someone in place to make daily checks inside her home after the first four days of her extended absence for cancer treatment.

But the adjuster's visit yielded a very different decision, Scotland said.

In addition to shouldering all costs and beginning repair work next week, Scotland said the company has now waived the $2,000 deductible, reimbursed her for the price of a contractor she hired in the aftermath of the flood, committed to either reupholstering or replacing certain items of furniture, and even offered to take on a minor repair that was unrelated to the original claim.

Left home reluctantly

"I was beginning to mistrust insurance ... but [the adjuster] proved he was a man of his word. He went and saw the place and he made the decision," Scotland said.

Her home in Pembroke is almost a two hours' drive from the Ottawa Hospital's General campus, where she is being treated for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

Her doctor didn't like her travelling back and forth, she said, so she reluctantly left home in November to stay close to the hospital during treatments. She had a neighbour watch the house and pick up mail, but she didn't ask him to go inside.

She insisted that when she bought her insurance, the person who sold her the policy said nothing about exclusions.

Insurance experts told Go Public that few Canadians are aware that if they leave their home for more than four days in the winter, without a responsible person to check the heat inside each day, home insurance won't cover water damage if pipes freeze and burst, as in this case.

Alternatively, water supply valves need to be shut off, but some policies may still require periodic checks, even with that precaution.

Three weeks after Scotland's last visit home, her furnace went out and the pipes froze and burst.

Unusual situation

Grey Power spokeswoman Stephanie Sorensen said the company was willing to consider Scotland's unusual situation and take the reason for her extended absence 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."

Scotland said Grey Power's actions will get her one step closer to her ultimate goal of returning to her home once her cancer treatment is completed.

"How long I'm going to be [in Ottawa getting treatment] only god alone knows. But I do hope to move back in my house," she said.

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