In the Media
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Alexandra Ross Featured in Thompson’s World Insurance News

“The insurance companies haven’t yet seen how dangerous this disorder is. When you go into a hoarder’s home there is always a fire risk.”

Ms. Ross often refers clients to psychological organizations for help. She has a degree in psychology herself, which she says helps her recognize the signs. Insurance companies need make connections with organizers and psychologist when they run into these situations. “We would like to create ties with companies to help in these cases.”

HOARDING AND INSURANCE

By Rod Weatherbie
Thompson’s World Insurance News
2011
As hoarding becomes a more well-known disorder, thanks in part to television shows such as TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive, the insurance industry needs to be aware of coverage problems that can arise from this mental-health issue.
Besides health and safety concerns, there could be insurance implications if a home or garage becomes overrun by clutter.
“Hoarding on its own would not cancel an insurance policy, but there could be other related issues that may affect it,” Allstate Insurance Company of Canada’s Eric Michalko said. “For example, fire hazards, excessive mould or too many animals living in the house as a result of hoarding could have an impact on someone’s policy.”
Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario chair and First Durham operations vp Bryan Yetman agreed.
“The outcome depends on the policy, but I would think that if an insurance company was on a policy in a hoarding situation it’s unlikely that it could get out of paying.”
Mr. Yetman said his office recently ran into a hoarding situation.
“We were looking at writing a policy and one of the staff happened to drive by the property. It was evident from the street that it would be a problem. The fire risk was obvious.”
A broker or insurer would be able to deny coverage due to the condition of a property but part of the problem is it’s rare that anyone writing coverage actually sees the property.
“That’s where something such as the iClarify product can come in handy,” Mr. Yetman said. “It has the potential to mitigate this issue. With iClarify you can get a view from the street right on your computer.”
The iClarify product has a feature similar to Google’s Street View. But sometime even seeing a property from the street belies a problem within or behind a property.
Crawford and Company Canada’s Sarah Gabl, a Surrey-based adjuster and Canadian Independent Adjusters Association Pacific Region member, said she’s dealt with a number of claims involving hoarders and it’s always a surprise.
“In one case we had to go to a property that look fine, nicely manicured lawn, well kept home – on the outside. Behind the front door and into the back of the property however, the homeowner had tonnes, literally tonnes, of scrap metal.”
Ms. Gabl said in the last two years alone she’s had to adjust losses at the homes of hoarders and there is never any indication from the homeowner that something is “up.”
“When you speak with them on the phone there is never any warning. The only time you know before-hand is if the contractor gets there first and gives you a heads up.”
And the problem knows no class or educational bounds. “A lot of these people are very intelligent, seemingly ‘normal’ people. But they have no idea that this is a problem. They compartmentalize.
“One claim I adjusted involved a woman who was a Harvard Ph.D. She had managed to flush batteries down her toilet. The batteries fell in because of all the stuff stored in the bathroom. I don’t think it was deliberate.
“But because of all of the stuff stored to the ceiling the claim was larger than you would think. A toilet backing up usually results in replacing carpet or flooring. Not here.”
Alexandra Ross says the problem is getting worse.
“I’m running into it professionally more and more,” Ms. Ross, the Vancouver director-at-large for the Professional Organizers of Canada, told Thompson’s. “And in Vancouver the city has actually set up a committee to deal with the problem.”
In December the City of Vancouver launched a Hoarding Task Force, comprised of a collection of agencies including BC Housing, Portland Housing Society, Vancouver Coastal Health and Vancouver Fire.
“The insurance companies haven’t yet seen how dangerous this disorder is. When you go into a hoarder’s home there is always a fire risk.”
Ms. Ross often refers clients to psychological organizations for help. She has a degree in psychology herself, which she says helps her recognize the signs. Insurance companies need make connections with organizers and psychologist when they run into these situations. “We would like to create ties with companies to help in these cases.”
She says she has dealt with fire officials and occasionally insurance companies in hoarding situation.
“Often the fire service will tell homeowners to clear a path through the mess. But then the insurance company is still within its right to deny coverage to a hoarder if there is a fire risk. They can tell the client they need to clean it up before they can have a policy, but it’s not as simple as saying, ‘Clean it up,’ it’s a long process.
“We need to help educate brokers and insurer about the problem.”

 

  • Featured in the “Home in Garden” Whistler Question 2010
  • Radio Interviews on Mountain FM in BC since 2008
  • Featured numerous times in the Whistler Question since 2004

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