07/05/2013 04:16 EDT | Updated 09/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta Floods Insurance Claims: Firms Step Up To Cover Sewer Backup Claims

CALGARY - Some flood-weary homeowners in southern Alberta have something to celebrate after their insurance companies had a change of heart about covering sewage backup claims.

The basement of Joanne Aime's house in Calgary was completely ruined by sewery water and the stress only got worse when RBC Insurance initially denied a claim for the damage.

Aime said RBC has since reconsidered and her family is overjoyed.

"We are thrilled," said Aime, who was handed a cheque by the company Friday.

"It was our entire basement. It is down to the studs and concrete. We even took the ceiling out. We think it is the right thing to do. It will allow us to rebuild."

Some homeowners have expressed frustration at how their insurance claims for sewer backup were being handled after heavy rains and flooding soaked the region last month.

In some cases, people in the same neighbourhood said they were being treated differently by different companies, even though the language in their insurance policies was similar.

The contentious point is sewer backup. Claims can be denied if there is evidence the backup was directly or indirectly caused by flooding.

RBC Insurance issued a statement Friday to make it clear how it will handle claims filed by people affected by the disaster.

"RBC Insurance is covering all sewer backup claims up to the limit of the policy due to the special circumstances on the ground and our desire to do our utmost to serve and support our clients during this difficult time," company spokeswoman Catherine Hudon said in an email.

"We are also working with clients to assist them in accessing additional government aid for uninsured losses."

AMA Insurance said it strives to do the best for its policyholders but can sometimes make mistakes.

Chief operating officer Robert Katzell said the insurer will send out another adjuster to take a second look if people who have filed a claim with AMA feel they haven't been treated fairly.

"If there is a sewer backup claim, or there is damage that is caused by sewer backup, it will be covered," Katzell said.

"As an Alberta organization we really believe it is our responsibility to look out for Albertans. We try to do the best for them and we don't always succeed, but we certainly try."

Earlier Friday, two AMA adjusters reassessed Calgarian Tom Carter's sewer backup claim that had been previously denied. The original adjuster said the backup had been caused by flooding. The new assessment said there was no evidence of overland flooding and approved his claim.

Carter said after long days of mucking out the basement of his family's home, the decision by AMA Insurance is a relief.

"This is fantastic news," Carter said. "We can get on with repairing the damage and getting life back to the way it was. We are very happy."

Carter said the first adjuster was probably overwhelmed by calls from policyholders and was only able to spend a few minutes assessing his home before turning down the claim.

The AMA adjusters who approved his claim Friday were at his home for about 45 minutes.

People who have uninsurable property damage caused by overland flooding can apply to the Alberta government for disaster recovery money to make some household repairs and to replace some essential items.

But there are restrictions on what people can claim. For example, televisions, luxury items and paintings aren't covered.

Carter said he knows that thousands of other people face the same challenge he did when dealing with sewer backup damage from the floods.

He said it would be great if other insurance companies could step up for their policyholders.

"The hope is that everyone who can, gets coverage for this. It has been a terrible thing to have to go through."

— By John Cotter in Edmonton

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