Insurance problems for student

By Natalie Sit

A University of Calgary student may have to pay for damages himself after a fire in his on-campus home.

After the July 24, 2003 fire in family housing, the student tried to make a claim. However his insurance company stated he did not have home insurance, leaving the student to pay for damages to the university–something his tight budget would not allow.

The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, was under the impression he had car and home insurance. When he renewed his insurance in January, he moved to another company. The new company gave him a discount for choosing a car and home policy. The student wanted to activate the policy but was told it was too early. On March 26, 2003, the student cancelled his old policy and activated his new one by fax. He told the company to deduct the money for his home insurance in one amount from his bank account. When the student checked the account, he noticed the amount was not deducted but thought little of it.

"At some point I thought it would show up," said the student. "Maybe it’s delayed. It’s not because I don’t have insurance. Maybe it needs a signature or something."

The student was busy with final exams and didn’t check further into it. After the fire, which damaged the kitchen and the living room, he went to clear up his insurance. However the insurance company told the student they knew he had a loss and asked why he didn’t correct the problem earlier.

"I assumed everything was going right," explained the student. "I have the confirmation number. No one would find out they don’t have insurance unless they make a claim."

The student, now responsible for repaying the university, went to Student Legal Assistance. His caseworker, who also wishes to remain anonymous, waived the fees because of the circumstances.

"The problem with insurance, when you present a claim, their number one reaction is to pay nothing or pay very little," said the SLA caseworker.

The student’s insurance company is recovering documents dealing with the student’s case. An insurance company spokesperson says while there is nothing on record about the student’s residential insurance, it doesn’t necessarily mean the student has no home insurance. The student does have active auto insurance.

The university is now in the process of cleaning up the home. According to Janet Stein, Manager of Insurance and Risk Management, the amount of the final bill amount is undetermined.

"The university doesn’t go after students for money," said Stein. "It will give us time to figure out bills and him to figure our his insurance."

The student and SLA estimated the costs at $10,000, although the university would not confirm the figure. The student hopes to reach a compromise with the insurance company but has doubts. He concluded only a court order will resolve the insurance matter.

"It’s not a big loss for the insurance company," said the student. "Ten thousand is very small [to them]. For me, it’s very big."

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