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You can buy insurance to protect your home against a fire, but not against a rush of water coming across your lawn.

That will change later this year for many Canadians.

Aviva Canada is set to become the first insurance company in the country to sell coverage for damage caused by overland flooding.

Alison Steele, a Aviva spokeswoman, said Ontario and Alberta homeowners will be the first in the country to be able to buy the coverage in May, followed by the other provinces through the year.

Steele said Manitobans may be able to buy the coverage starting in July.

"It has traditionally been considered not possible to cover," she said on Monday.

"This covers a torrential rainfall or if a river or a lake overflows."

Steele said she couldn't say yet which areas of Winnipeg and Manitoba might be included or excluded because the company is still looking at flooding topographical maps.

Steele said across the entire country, "five per cent (of homeowners) are in high-risk zones."

Steele said it's still not known how much the coverage will cost, but Aviva is committed to making it "affordable".

Rita Bartmanovich, who owns a market garden business south of the city, and whose house and business were destroyed in the Flood of the Century in 1997, said she doesn't think it will benefit her or anyone around her.

"I can almost predict they won't do it for the Red River Valley," said Bartmanovich, whose house and buildings have been rebuilt and surrounded by a several-metres high dike.

"I really don't think they will ever sell insurance out here. But at least 70 per cent of the houses around here are either behind an 18- or 25-foot high dike or built on top of a hill 20-feet high. We wouldn't have rebuilt our house until we knew we could make the dike even higher than the flood waters.

"I guess we'll have to wait and see."

David Schioler, chief executive officer of the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba, said the insurance industry is excited about the new coverage. He predicts other Canadian insurance companies will now follow Aviva's lead.

Schioler said he doesn't know how much the flood coverage might cost, but it could be around $1,000 per year.

"If people are aware of the risk, they'll pay a little extra."

Schioler said the new flood coverage comes in the wake of billions of dollars worth of flood damage faced by homeowners in Alberta and Toronto in 2013.

"They are the first in the market with this," he said.

"Aviva believes if you can price it you can cover it and if you cover it you can price it," Schioler said.

"Most people aren't aware of what coverage they have until they find out they don't. They only find out when they have a catastrophe.

"Good for Aviva for coming forward and starting the game."

Steele said homeowners will also need to buy coverage for sewage backup in order to purchase the overland flood insurance.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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