by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As the region begins to face its first round of snowfalls, a little-known problem is plaguing many businesses whose job it is to clean it all up. The Times was contacted by a local resident and business owner, Tyler Keddy, about the rising rates of liability insurance premiums, specifically for snow removal businesses. Tyler had to leave behind a large snow removal customer base in Ottawa because he was facing the prospect of paying about $23,000 in yearly insurance premiums. This has not been a problem in North Grenville and North Dundas, so he has decided to rebuild his customer base here, and is looking forward to providing the same type of service locally as he was known for in the city.
To learn more about what is driving the increase in premiums, the Times talked with Lindsey Ross, co-owner of Living Green Landscaping, who is also the Treasurer and Second Vice-President Elect of Landscape Ontario.
“Snow insurance is a province-wide, frankly nation-wide, problem,” Lindsey said. He explained that personal injury law firms have become more widely accessible in Ontario, since they can now work on a contingency basis, meaning that, in personal injury cases, lawyers are paid from the proceeds of a winning settlement, and take nothing if the case is lost. This has resulted in the average slip and fall claim paying out well over $100,000, according to Lindsey. He explained that insurance companies calculate the potential for claims when determining a premium, and, unfortunately, there have been a few high-loss years for insurance companies recently, so they are now trying to compensate with higher premiums. When asked if he had any tips for snow removal companies to survive, Lindsey provided a few pointers.
“Stick to residential snow, have iron clad contracts, and never sign a contract that has you holding them harmless in any case other than your negligence,” Lindsey said. “Obviously, immaculate record-keeping, tracking, log-keeping, all of that’s going to help.”
Commercial Risk Manager, Chris Wilson, also weighed in on the issue, saying that the increase in slip and fall claims has caused insurance companies to tighten their conditions for getting a policy, which has made it “nearly impossible to start a new snow plow business.”
There is some hope for changes to the industry, as Lindsey has confirmed that Landscape Ontario is working with retired Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP Norm Sterling to fight for legislative changes that would limit liability for snow removal companies who go through a certification process. Lindsey identified this as the “New Hampshire Model” of snow clearing liability. Such a change could potentially benefit business owners and homeowners alike, but there is no telling how long the implementation would take.