Insurer cancels homeowner's policy 1 month after tornado

Kate Hurman was frustrated and confused when her insurance company cancelled her policy a month after last year's tornadoes damaged her property in the city's Greenboro neighbourhood — all because she'd filed a separate claim within the past four years.

Hurman's home was one of many in the region to suffer damage when a series of tornadoes ripped through several residential areas in September 2018.

"It took out my fences, it took out my deck, my gazebo, my furniture. It spun my barbecue around and smashed it down into my deck," Hurman told CBC Radio's All In A Day Monday. "Then it bounced over my house and took out my neighbours' roofs."

So Hurman turned to Johnson Insurance, the same company that had helped her several months earlier when a smaller wind storm resulted in minor damage to her property and her neighbour's. 

After a series of delays and missteps, Hurman eventually received $20,000 to repair her property and replace damaged items.

But then the insurance company, which Hurman had used for 19 years without ever making a claim, decided not to renew her policy. 

'I was shocked'

Hurman said she first received the news in a cryptic email. She followed up with a phone call, only to discover her policy was being cancelled.

Hurman said the company told her it was because she had filed two claims in a 48-month period — even though both claims were for weather-related events out her control. 

"I was shocked. I mean, honestly, I was just shocked."

Hurman said the 48-month window wasn't mentioned anywhere in her policy. 

"It's not on their website. It's nowhere that I could locate it," she said.

Provided by Kate Hurman

CBC Radio reached out to RSA Canada, an umbrella group that includes Johnson Insurance, for comment.

"Due to privacy regulations, we're not able to comment on specific claims or customer insurance policies. Johnson's complaint liaison office is available to any consumer who wishes to discuss specific policy discussions," the company said in a statement.

But when Hurman started searching for a new company, she said it became clear the rule wasn't an industry standard.

"I asked them outright: Do you have such a policy? And some companies ... were hesitant. The company I went with said, 'No, we don't have that policy.'"

'Upfront and clear' 

Hurman is now calling for insurance companies to be "upfront and clear" about their policies. 

"I wonder how many people in the Ottawa area understand that if you make two claims with some companies within a 48-month period, you will no longer have insurance with that company," she said.

The affair has been a particular sore point for Hurman, who initially recommended her insurance company to her neighbours in the aftermath of the tornado.

Raisa Patel/CBC

"Here I was on the street writing on little Post-it notes to my neighbours, 'Hey, my insurance company is great.'"

Her advice to others who could get stuck in a similar situation is simple: "Go ask them directly. They cannot lie but ... they will not, up front, give you this information. And to me, it's pretty vital information."