Heritage homeowners facing high insurance premiums; told to press government for change


Everyone loves the charm of historic homes, except insurance companies.
They don’t want to insure them at reasonable rates if at all.
About 20 homeowners came to a meeting sponsored by Petrolia Heritage which highlighted the concerns of dealing with a myriad of insurance problems.
Insurance Bureau of Canada Communications Director Peter Karageorgos was at the meeting. He outlined the role the IBC plays  across Canada.
Following a presentation, Karageorgos answered questions from the audience. But, aside from telling them to “keep trying” and to press the government for change, Karageorgos had no concrete answers for heritage homeowners.
He told the residents to keep extensive records and documentation of their homes, when applying for insurance in making a claim.
“It’s up to insurance companies who they decide to insure,” Karageorgos says.
Bob and Laurette Gulvin are a Petrolia couple feeling the pinch. They own a gingerbread-trimmed yellow brick home on Greenfield St.
Gulvin says the premiums for the house that dates back to the 1870’s are off the charts. So, he decided to investigate other options and  approached five other companies.
Three of them refused to give a quote, Gulvin says, and one offered to insure him at the same rate he already had. One quote was even higher.
Gulvin remains mystified.
“I believe it is a monopoly,” Gulvin explains. “Insurance brokers all insure the same way.”
His major bone of contention is that his company insures his house for $900,000 even though it is assessed at $300,000.
He admits it would be like nearly a million to rebuild the house to its original state, but knows that’s impossible as materials and the craftsmanship in the house are irreplaceable. He’d like to insure the home for the replacement cost of an “ordinary house” in the $300,000 range, which would cut his current premiums significantly.
“I’m over-insured,” Gulvin told the group.
Other residents told Karageorgos similar tales of woe.
One woman, who co-owns a large heritage home that’s sometimes opened to the public, says she can’t even get liability insurance, let alone replacement insurance. She was given only five days notice for the cancellation of her policy last December.
Petrolia Heritage Committee member Susan McEwan, owner of a 6,000 square foot home, echoed similar concerns.
But, a grassroots solution to the insurance conundrum may be in the wings.
Susan Carradine-Armstrong, manager of the Goderich BIA, also attended the meeting.
With an abundance of heritage homes, Carradine-Armstrong says Goderich shares the same concerns as Petrolia.
In fact, Carradine-Armstrong says, 81 percent of the historic homes destroyed in the tornado were rebuilt. Yet, there are major problems with the way the insurance business deals with historic buildings, she explains, adding she’s willing to work with Petrolia residents to help find solutions. McEwen says she will bring Carradine-Armstrong’s    offer for discussion to the next heritage committee meeting.