Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

Not at this rate

Cabin owner finds only one taker in quest for home insurance

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Liard (May 16/03) - Steve Malesku is outraged that he's being asked to pay six-fold his previous rate for home insurance.

Malesku owns a log home with a wood stove in Fort Liard. His previous log cabin was destroyed by fire in February, 2002. The cause of that fire was indeterminate.

His insurance policy covered the cost of rebuilding. The insurance company even replaced his old wood stove.

However, his insurer, ING Western, refused to underwrite his new home with the wood stove inside -- even though the stove is Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved.

Malesku proceeded to call the several other insurance companies listed in the NWT yellow pages. He got nowhere.

"I called them all. Every one of them got back to me and said, 'No, nobody that they dealt with will insure a log house with a wood stove in the Northwest Territories,' " he said.

Finally he found an exception. A Yellowknife-based broker was willing to cover him -- the only catch? They quoted a figure of $3,158 per year, a price Malesku described as "exorbitant."

Over the past 25 years, he said, he had been paying $400-500 annually for his home insurance policy.

Mark Harris, an insurance agent in Hay River, said homes with wood stoves can in fact be insured but they have to be inspected first. There is, however, a shortage of inspectors, Harris acknowledged. Hay River, for example, has none.

"In Hay River, generally it's been a nightmare," he said, adding that a discrepancy also exists over who should pay for the inspections, the insurance companies or municipalities. "Inspections is the biggest thing. It's not just a general rule of thumb that if there's a wood stove we can't (insure) it."

Harris noted that some companies do apply a surcharge for insuring wood stoves, as much as 25 per cent to as little as a $30 flat rate. He pointed out that there are additional factors that influence premiums such as construction and fire protection -- be it from a fire hydrant, a fire hall or unprotected.

Malesku said he's going to take the issue to Nahendeh MLA Jim Antoine in the hope that the territorial government can help NWT consumers.

"That affects a lot of people in the territories. Lots of people have log houses," said Malesku. "If it can't be insured, I don't know..."

In an interview with the Drum, Antoine acknowledged the hardship that homeowners like Malesku are encountering.

"There is a common concern there ... it is tough," Antoine said. "We (the legislative assembly) could check it out."