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ONTARIO: Family forced to live in hotel for seven months as insurer, contractor 'dragging their feet'

The roof of Richard Howard's and Rachel Legault's house collapsed under winter 2019's heavy snowfall

SUDBURY - Seven months after ice buildup on their roof caused severe damage to their home, a Sudbury family is extremely frustrated with its insurance company and the contractors they were forced to hire to repair the damage.

Many homes experienced ice buildup on their roofs this past winter. It happened to Richard Howard and Rachel Legault, and the melting ice leaked through their roof. As a result, their ceiling caved in back in February. 

When the ceilings came down, they discovered the house contained Type 3 asbestos, and the family was evacuated from the home so the asbestos could be removed.

That's the good news. 

The bad news is the family has been living in a hotel for the past seven months as they fight with their insurance company as to what exactly is covered under their policy. The couple say their adjuster is being extremely difficult, refusing to cover items in the house that clearly were damaged as a result of the roof collapsing.

The process is taking so long, they have used up the money they were given for alternate accommodations while their home is fixed. 

“We have no money yet (from the insurance company) to start fixing the house,” said Howard. “They are still working on the scope of work, such as how much damage was done, so we still have no money to repair anything.”

The couple has been told that once the funds for alternate housing runs out, those costs will have to come out of the money they get to fix the house.

“Why should we be getting less repair money if they're the ones dragging their feet,” Howard said. “I don't have the money to pay for both my mortgage and hotel rental. What happens next is very unclear.”

Dealing with the insurance company and its contractors has been “complete hell since Day 1.”

Howard said first the insurance adjuster refused to come to see the damage to the home. Then, contractors froze their water line and he had to change his pressure tank and pressure switch. The trouble continued.

Next the contractor broke three windows, Howard said, and admitted proper protocol for the removal of Type 3 asbestos had not been followed, so workers had to be called back twice after they had deemed the house cleared of asbestos to finish the job.

The contractors left articles from inside the home outside, which are still sitting on the deck, Howard said. They left a molded and dented fridge in the kitchen, which is still there.

The home is located on Highway 144, near the turnoff to Levack. The couple and their three children, three dogs and a rabbit are staying at the Windy Lake Motel, not an ideal situation for a family that size.

They can't live in their home, because “there are no walls, no ceilings, no floors, no insulation, nothing,” said Richard Howard. 

“We just don't know where to go, what to do, where to get answers, and we're beyond stressed.”

As a musician, Howard said he wanted to make sure his instruments were covered in case anything ever happened to them. That's why they pay high premiums, upwards of $250 a month. Their policy covers most damages, so it should have been smooth sailing in the wake of what happened to their home.

That's not even remotely close to the case, though, Howard said.

The insurance company first estimated there was $84,000 in damages. Six months later, they readjusted the estimate to $12,000, “which was just ridiculous, because I have no home,” Howard said.

The insurance company sent another contractor to confirm the scope of the first estimate, Howard said. 

“This contractor told me there is no way they could finish the work to my home in time for winter,” he said. “There's three to four months of work. He told me it's common to fight for everything to get fixed.”

Howard said when the roof first collapsed, prior to the ceiling coming down, they had gathered 11 garbage bags full of wet clothing and had put them in the laundry room to be washed. When the ceiling collapsed the next day, they were told evacuate. The clothes were left there. 

The insurance company told them those clothes would not be covered because the children have grown since February.

The adjuster also told them the damage to the basement wouldn't be covered, despite the fact the ceiling was coming apart due to the water that leaked in from the collapsed roof and ceilings.

And the insurance company is refusing to pay for the roof, because they saw a Google image from two years ago that showed a few loose shingles, he said. The roof had never leaked before this.

“It's been absolutely insane,” they said. “We just want to get back in our house, but I can't get any answers from anybody.”

There are more issues with the insurance company and the contractor hired to take care of the repairs, he said. But, what the couple really needs is some help from the community.

They've set up a GoFundMe campaign, titled Homeless Living in a Hotel. The goal is $10,000, but to date only $100 has been raised.



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Arron Pickard

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