High insurance costs lead heritage owner to de-register

Darrell Cole webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on February 5, 2008

AMHERST - Yet another heritage owner has asked Amherst to de-register his property because of what he feels are higher insurance costs.

AMHERST - Yet another heritage owner has asked Amherst to de-register his property because of what he feels are higher insurance costs.
"My insurance company has a problem with the heritage designation," John Dawson said. "Although I do not fully understand the nature of their problem, I do understand the ramification it is having on my coverage and it is not good. The end result is that I am paying more for coverage inferior to what I had before the heritage card came into play."
Dawson, who is insured through Royal Sun Alliance, recently bought the former Bank of Nova Scotia House at 192 East Victoria Street, which is a municipally-registered heritage property.
He is not if switching to another insurance carrier would resolve the core issue over insurance heritage homes versus regular homes. Even if it's de-registered, he has no plans to change the appearance of the building.
"One of the reason I bought the home is that I like its exterior appearance and have no desire to change it," he said. "This is equally true whether or not my house is a registered heritage property."
Although town staff recommended Dawson's request be denied, council voted during its monthly meeting on Monday to approve Dawson's request because it has approved other similar requests.
However, the vote was not unanimous and council knows something needs to be done before all heritage properties are de-registered.
"From a historical perspective there is no reason to de-register this property," Coun. Ed Chitty said. "Amherst has a number of Victorian homes along Victoria Street that attract tourists and I do know our municipal planning strategy and long-range plan encourages that type of building."
While Dawson could move ahead and de-register the property without the town's permission in a year, Chitty said denying his application would give the town's heritage committee time to put some incentives in place for people to maintain their heritage status.
Coun. Dale Fawthrop said the town has already set the precedent by allowing others to de-register their properties. While heritage properties aren't supposed to be more expensive to insure, Fawthrop said, they are.
Still, Chitty feels the town can't give lip service to its heritage..
"We're missing the point and making a mistake not to have a year's waiting period. If we do allow him to de-register, he will de-register and won't be coming back," Chitty said.
Insurance broker Garry Stack said it's incorrect for property blame higher insurance rates on its heritage designation. Instead, he said, it's a difference between insuring the property for cash value versus replacement costs. Replacing a heritage home with a reproduction is more expensive.
"When you're replacing a heritage building you have to do a reproduction. You have to put the same type of stone back and things like that. For that reason it costs more to insure it," he said. "He can insure it for actual cash value and the fact it's a heritage property will not drive the cost."