Insurance delays causing even bigger problems for N.S. homeowners trying to rebuild after Fiona

Angela Soltesz blames the mould growing in her house in Coxheath, N.S., near Sydney, on the long wait for help from insurance after storm damage in September 2022.  (Josefa Cameron/CBC - image credit)
Angela Soltesz blames the mould growing in her house in Coxheath, N.S., near Sydney, on the long wait for help from insurance after storm damage in September 2022. (Josefa Cameron/CBC - image credit)

Cape Breton's Angela Soltesz says her insurance company still hasn't completed repairs to her Coxheath, N.S., home more than three months after it was damaged by post-tropical storm Fiona.

Now mould is growing in her house and she and her children developed nasty coughs because of it.

"It's been stressful every day. I've been losing sleep. I've been worrying about the kids all the time, I don't really worry about myself and mainly worry about them," she told CBC News in an interview.

Soltesz, a single mother of two, works at Coxheath Elementary in the after-school and daycare programs.

Getting action from Intact Insurance has been time-consuming and exasperating, she says, although the company recently apologized for the delay after being contacted by CBC and agreed that repairs will begin this week.

"You're trying to concentrate at work and you're just thinking in the back of your head, what if things get worse? I wouldn't wish this on anybody — the stress and the heartache," she said.

Submitted by Angela Soltesz
Submitted by Angela Soltesz

Soltesz said she was prepared for the storm when Fiona hit, but she wasn't prepared for the aftermath of endless waiting. She called Intact Insurance right away after rainwater came through her roof and her basement flooded during the hurricane.

Then she initially took matters into her own hands, found a roofing repair company thanks to her brother, and paid upfront from her own pocket. Intact partially reimbursed her, but she paid around $2,000 in total.

The bill was a painful hit, she said, especially shortly after Christmas as a single mother.

Submitted by Angela Soltesz
Submitted by Angela Soltesz

But she said that when she called, she is always sent to an answering machine. When she used the emergency line, she was told that they usually don't deal with mould.

But Soltesz said Wednesday she has now a promise that the mouldy material will be removed.

"This would not have happened if things had been taken care of when they should have been taken care of and not put on the back burner for so long," she said.

Now, her attic is teeming with spores and mould is visible in multiple spots on the ceiling.

An environmental worker assessed her house last week. He told her that because the roof wasn't taken care of in time, every time it rained, snowed or the temperature changed, it caused spores to form inside the house

She believes the walls will have to be torn down and rebuilt.

"In my personal opinion, that shouldn't come out of my pocket because this was not my fault. I have been on the phone with them from day one of Fiona," she said.

 

For health reasons, some people are telling her not to live in the house.

"I did have one professional tell me that as long as you do not try to scrub or touch the mould, it will not become airborne. So I'm trying to go with that. But at the same time, I'm nervous, it's very stressful."

If the walls need to be torn down, she and her children will likely stay in a hotel or motel nearby, which she hopes insurance will cover, because they don't have anywhere else to go.

"So it's coming to the point [where] it's hard to trust anybody anymore, you want to believe that you're important. You pay insurance every single month for, oh my goodness, for a long time. So you expect to get help when you need it," she said.

Soltesz has a message to insurance companies, "if they can't help, just be honest with the customers, don't say, 'Oh, you're on our priority list.'"

We are looking into the situation and will reach out to the customer directly. - Intact Financial Corporation

Intact Financial Corporation responded to requests for an interview saying in an email statement that it is, "committed to processing and settling claims with fairness, transparency, and consistency to help our customers get back on track."

The statement also stated, "We are looking into the situation and will reach out to the customer directly."

Leonard Joseph Wall is in a similar situation. He and his wife, Amanda, have been living in their North Sydney home for 30 years.

Wall works as an electrician. During the hurricane, plywood tore off a corner of the house, exposing the roof to the storm. The wind pushed the insulation to the basement.

Submitted by Leonard Joseph Wall
Submitted by Leonard Joseph Wall

Wall was insured with Bluenose Insurance, which was bought by Intact Financial Corporation in late November.

He says the damages were repairable, and he had contractors ready to work, but the company told him not to do anything until one of their representatives assessed the damage. But it's been over three months.

Now, mould is growing in their basement and walls and their ceilings are ready to fall down.

"Before, it was a little bit of damage. I could deal with that. But now, I got mould in my home, I said, 'Guys, someone's got to get here. Someone's got to tell me to do something,'" he said.

Submitted by Leonard Joseph Wall
Submitted by Leonard Joseph Wall

He said one assessor came to the property but did not step inside the house but he hasn't heard back.

"They promised me they'd be here. I haven't seen another soul or e-mail or phone call from anyone."

"I think it's going to turn into one of the biggest nightmares me and my wife has ever gone through. I know it's going to," he said.

Wall said he pays $414 per month on insurance coverage of up to $300,000 on his house. He said if things get worse, they may have to move which would be brutal financially and emotionally.

"This [home] is all my kids and grandkids."

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