A tree that crashed through the roof of a BC couple’s home started a chain of events that resulted in their dream home falling apart, rodent infested, and the family and pets living in a trailer that was on the driveway was parked.
Sharon and Paul Gough of Mission, BC, now find themselves in an argument with their insurance company after a routine loss event turns into a major repair disaster.
They say the contractors recommended by Wawanesa Mutual Insurance caused nearly a million dollars in damage to their home that they believe is no longer safe to live in.
Paul Gough says he took some time off working as a contractor to make his home habitable again. (CBC)
For the past eight months, the Goughs have lived in a 300-square-foot trailer with their teenage son, a 120-pound Great Dane, and two Chihuahuas. It’s a big change to live in a 8,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom home that you’ve saved and saved for decades.
To enter any part of their home, the Goughs must put on protective suits and masks.
“It went from a tree that fell on our house to a huge destruction,” Sharon Gough told Go Public.
“How can anyone ever foresee the nightmare that was going on in our house?”
The initial repair bill is estimated at $ 78,000
When a large hemlock tree struck the family home during a storm in August 2015, it damaged part of the roof. The repair cost was estimated at $ 78,000.
The Goughs contacted their insurance company and were given the option of using a Wawanesa-recommended contractor to repair the damage or finding their own.
“We felt we had a claim, they have good people, so-called preferred providers, that’s good for us,” says Paul Gough.
The animals managed to get into the house through a hole left by a falling tree. (Paul Gough)
That’s when things started to fall apart.
Replacement tiles for the damaged part of the roof could not be found. Instead of paying to replace the entire roof, the Goughs said their insurance company delayed repairs by eight months. The contractor had covered the hole in the roof with a thin nylon sheet while a decision was being made about what to do.
“One morning we woke up to a squirrel sitting on our rafters and thought again, ‘Folks, you have to come in here and take care of the animals that are invading our house,'” says Paul Gough.
“We didn’t know then that it wasn’t just squirrels and birds. They were rats.
“So she again [Wawanesa] stalled, they waited, and then … went back to one of their preferred vendors – a pest control company, ”says Gough.
The insulation of the house is full of rat droppings after rodents got into the attic. (Paul Gough)
The company used poison instead of traps to get rid of the rats, which caused the rodents to die behind the drywall.
Before the pest control company could remove the carcasses, the contractor sealed the hole in the roof that enclosed the dead rodents in the walls and ceiling.
They are preferred not because they are good at their craft, but because they are cheap.– Scott Stanley, insurance attorney
The house is now full of flies and the Goughs say anyone who enters the attic must wear a protective suit and mask to avoid contaminating the rest of the house.
“It’s an incompetent contractor who, along with the experts, didn’t have the skills to handle the damage and they just lost control of it,” says Paul Gough.
Wrong stucco, broken windows
The couple claim that Wananesa’s preferred contractor also damaged the stucco on the outside of their home in repairs, causing large panels to fall off.
In an attempt to fix this problem, workers broke four window panes, he says.
The hole in the roof extends into the master bedroom of the house. (Paul Gough)
When it rained, the replacement windows leaked and the basement flooded, the family claims. Cables may also have been eaten by rats, so there are no working smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.
“It just goes on and on and on and on,” says Paul Gough.
List of preferred providers in question
At Go Public’s request, Wawanesa Insurance declined to answer questions about the Gough case or how to choose preferred providers for home repairs.
During repairs, huge pieces of stucco fell from the outside of the house. (CBC)
On its website, the company says that it will provide names for contractors “with whom we have had good experiences”, that it does not recommend companies, “unless we have full confidence that they will provide you with the high quality repairs, that you deserve “and that it guarantees their work.
Long-time Vancouver insurance attorney Scott Stanley warns homeowners not to use preferred providers, calling the term “misleading to the customer”.
Most insurance providers have companies that recommend them to their customers for repairs. They’re called different names, but the idea is the same.
“The preferred provider is preferred by the insurance company,” says Stanley. “And they are preferred not because they are good at their craft, but because they are cheap.”
After the windows leaked, water damaged the bedrooms in the house. (Paul Gough)
After making an initial claim, Stanley advises homeowners to take out a loan from their bank, prepay for repairs with a contractor of their choice, and then file the claim with their insurance company.
This usually requires several quotes from different companies, then the approval of the insurance company before starting the repair.
Wawanesa ‘confident’ in a fair resolution
Wawanesa and the Goughs are going through a dispute settlement process over the cost of repairing any damage caused to their home.
“This… process is designed to help resolve situations where there are different views on the amount and cost of repairs required…. We are confident that the integrity of this process will result in a fair resolution of the matter, ”said Selena Hinds, director of communications and community affairs for Wawanesa, wrote in an email to Go Public.
Vancouver insurance attorney Scott Stanley says contractors can become preferred providers not because they do quality work, but because they offer cheap services. (CBC)
This process will likely delay repairs even further. Stanley says it can take up to six months to resolve the dispute.
“While it’s a good technical process to solve your legal problems, it’s not a good practical solution to your insurance claim,” he says.
Claim balloons to “over a million”
Almost 18 months after the tree hit their roof, the Goughs say they are no closer to being able to move back into their home. The family sleeps, takes a shower and cooks in the trailer – and has even moved Paul’s study to the mobile home.
Paul and Sharon Gough say they are tired of living in a trailer parked in the driveway of their home. (Paul Prefontaine / CBC)
Sharon Gough now has two jobs so her husband can take time off to act as a contractor and run the cleanup and repair companies that need to be hired to make the house habitable again.
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The Goughs no longer use Wawanesa’s preferred suppliers and have found their own contractors.
“Unfortunately, as the snowball rolls down the mountain, it just keeps getting bigger,” says Paul Gough.
“And if you have a different incident every day, you no longer have confidence.”
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