Days after a second tornado ripped through the capital in less than a year, homeowners affected by the first storm are offering some advice.

“Get receipts for everything,” says September tornado victim Mark MacDonald,

“Document everything and don’t talk to them on the phone instead email everything, get quotes and take pictures.”

MacDonald and his wife Karen lost their Craig Henry home on Craigmohr Court on September 21, 2018.

“We went out for pizza one day and came home to a destroyed home.”

MacDonald’s home, believed to be the largest and most expensive one damaged in the tornado, was eventually destroyed in March.

Now, nearly nine months later, his lot remains vacant, a pile of dirt, in the upscale neighbourhood.

“It’s frustration, aggravation and slowly osmosing into anger,” MacDonald says when asked by CTV how he feels now looking at the empty lot.

Since September MacDonald has been in a battle with his insurance company RBC Aviva.

“We paid our insurance, we thought insurance would remove the stress of anything that could possibly happen and instead it has added stress to our lives,” says MacDonald.

In documents, sent to MacDonald from Aviva, the insurance company estimates a rebuild would cost $1,493,649.14. It goes on to say MacDonald’s rebuild quote is $1,772,976.00.

“This is a significant variance,” the Aviva spokesperson writes, going on to say “Aviva is electing to trigger Appraisal under the Insurance Act.

MacDonald says Aviva’s quote doesn’t include his finished basement, garage, pool, landscaping and damaged home contents.

“I feel like they are playing games with us,” MacDonald says.

CTV Ottawa reached out to Aviva to respond to MacDonald’s claim, a spokesperson says:

“Because this is an ongoing matter, it would not be appropriate for us to comment publicly on it.

Broadly speaking, when value disputes like these occur, and when both sides want a quick and unbiased binding decision, an independent appraisal process is often a viable, fair and timely option. We therefore welcome and will abide by whatever the outcome of that process.”

In Dunrobin, there is also frustration with insurance companies.

“Our roof was tarped six times and water just kept coming in,” says Dunrobin homeowner Grace Moyer-Campbell.

Moyer-Campbell and her family have lived in a rental for nine-months, the roof of their home was damaged in the tornado and then the problems continued she says from there.

“There is still no insulation and there is still moisture.”

She claims her insurance company, The Personal by Desjardins, promised to repair their home over the winter months so it would be ready for move in this spring. She says that never happened. The cold winter months taking a toll on her home,

“The door frames are now shrinking, the hardwood floors are shrinking, the granite countertops are cracked,” Moyer-Campbell says holding back tears.

“I’m allergic to mold and dust and I can’t go into the house.”

“All we want to do is move back home,” she says wiping tears from her eyes.

Desjardins responded to CTV’s request for comment and questions. Here is what spokesperson John Bordignon had to say:

Assisting and talking with our customers going through a stressful time like this is our priority. We encourage them to call us, talk to their insurance adjustor or reach out to their local agent at any time through the claims and repair process. We can explain their insurance coverage, how the claim is progressing and answer any questions they have. We want to bring them and their families back to a sense of normalcy as quickly and safely as possible.

Ensuring the privacy of our customers’ claims is paramount to us so I am limited about how much detail I can share. However I have answered your questions the best I can.

What has taken so long to repair this home?

Repairs after severe weather events can be impacted by many factors. These are just a few that can extend the repair period and may have been contributing factors in Mrs. Moyer-Campbell’s situation.

  • The amount and severity of damage to the home
  • The number of claims in a certain area can affect contractors available to do the work required in that area
  • During the repair process more damage can be uncovered that needs to be addressed lengthening the repair time
  • The availability of materials and contents that match the damaged home (custom furniture, appliances, brick/roof shingle colour, windows, etc.)
  • In some cases the homeowner may not be happy with the contractor and they will want to change them mid-repair.
  • In some cases during the course of repairs, the customer will ask that the contractor not come back to finish certain repairs if they are unhappy, for example if they feel that an aspect of the repairs or replacements are not progressing as they like, they have the right to stop the work being done at anytime
  • Disputes about the damage to a home can lengthen the claims process. For example, if the customer believes there is more damage that the insurance company did not see on their initial inspection or subsequent engineering reports are asked for or required
  • After a severe weather event with widespread damage there is an influx of contactors (some of them are not reputable) that will travel door-to-door to houses that are damaged and indicate more repairs are required to the home than are necessary. This can be an attempt to unsettle the homeowner and have them hire them to do the work thinking that they have their best interests at heart. The information these contactors provide can delay repairs as a further investigation needs to take place to determine if there are subsequent damages or if the client choses to change contractors.

Why are homeowners not given structural engineer reports?

  • Homeowners can have their insurance adjustor go over engineering reports with them at their convenience and at their home. I understand that we did so in this case with the latest report we received last week. I will ask to have a copy of the report sent to Mrs. Moyer-Campbell.

What is the acceptable time frame for Desjardins/The Personal to repair insured homes?

  • This depends on the factors mentioned above but we want to complete repairs as quickly as possible. It can vary significantly from home to home. We work with our clients to make the claims and repairs process as quick and safe as possible. This means understanding their insurance coverage, concerns and keeping communication lines open to ensure they understand next steps and that things go as smoothly as possible.

What will you do to help this family and other families still dealing with insurance headaches from September's tornado?

  • I encourage Mrs. Moyer-Campbell to call us at her leisure, or I can ask our people to call her so we can continue to work to come to a resolution that is fair and best for her and her family. It’s our job to be there to help our clients through events like these that seriously upset their lives. Through the claims process we go over their insurance coverage so they understand what is covered and remain in contact with them through the repair process to help explain next steps. Desjardins’s insurance brands received over 1120 claims in Ottawa, Gatineau and Nepean from the severe weather events in late September 2018. We have closed the majority (75%) of these claims on behalf of our clients and are working diligently daily to close the remainder.