Golf ball causes $6,000 damage to Ontario home owner’s solar panels

There are benefits to living beside a golf course as you can enjoy the open green spaces, beautiful views and manicured landscaping.

However, 89-year-old George Hancocks of Scarborough, Ont., says there are drawbacks too.

“I think there are some pretty bad golfers out there, that’s for sure,” Hancocks said.

Hancocks says he has lived beside the Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Scarborough, which is owned by the City of Toronto, for more than 50 years and there have been plenty of times when errant golf balls have struck his home breaking windows and denting his cars.

Hancocks said he doesn't often complain about balls hitting his house.

However, he said recently he had solar panels installed on his roof to make his home more energy efficient and in August 2021, a golf ball smashed a solar panel on his roof that short circuited the entire system.

“A wild golf ball came down and hit one of the solar panels and completely destroyed the panel,” Hancocks said.

The cost to replace and repairs the panels came to $6,000.

Hancocks contacted the golf course and filed a claim to have the city pay for the repairs, but following an investigation by the Insurance Company ClaimsPro, his claim was denied.

"In order for you to be successful against the City Of Toronto, you must prove the city was negligent. Please note there is an inherent risk in owning a property located in close proximity to a golf course," the claims adjuster said. "Therefore we can find no negligence on the part of the City of Toronto and your claim has been denied in full.”

Golfers tee off not far from Hancocks’ home and he says a screen or netting could be installed to stop balls from hitting his home and others in the neighborhood.

Hancocks said he feels the golf course is responsible for the damage and he has been trying for the past nine months to get the city to pay for the repairs.

"When golf balls hit and damage your house to the tune of $6,000 that's no joke," Hancocks said.

CTV News Toronto reached out to the golf course on Hancocks behalf, and a spokesperson for the insurance and risk management department with the City of Toronto said the adjustor came to the wrong conclusion.

“In this case, the adjustor came to the wrong conclusion with respect to liability," the spokesperson said. "Generally speaking, because the city recognizes that a nuisance was created, the city and its claims adjusting firm usually takes the necessary steps to resolve claims of this nature.”

“Usually, claimants escalate disputes to ClaimsPro senior management. Unfortunately, this did not occur in this instance and so it was not brought to the city's attention until now. Now that this claim has been brought to the city's attention, the city has reviewed the decision made by the adjustor and brought the error to the attention of the claims adjusting firm. ClaimsPro has contacted the claimant to inform them that the claim will be resolved.”

“The city has taken steps to ensure that the adjusting firm and all of its adjustors are aware of the appropriate position to take with respect to liability to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.”

Now that the city has agreed to pay the $6,000 repair bill, it came as a great relief to Hancocks.

“Having this $6,000 paid now is wonderful and I really appreciate it. I’m very happy” said Hancocks.

It is not always clear who should pay if a golf ball hits a home. The golfer could also be liable if they were being irresponsible, but courses should also take precautions to keep neighbouring homes safe from being hit.