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Managing Risky Business: Q1/2016

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In this issue of Managing Risky Business, read about:

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Getting a Handle on Hoarding

Kim-SHOW

THP’s main consultant, Kim Hodder

We were happy to hear from Gael Gilbert at Supportive Housing of Waterloo (SHOW) after our last newsletter went out. She wanted to share with our group information about her organization’s experience with managing hoarding. So we sent HSC’s Manager of Insurance Services, Kisha Reddish, to meet with Kim Hodder, the Hoarding Project’s main consultant at SHOW, and she submitted this story.

For housing providers and property managers, it’s sometimes unclear what you should do when you become aware of a unit that poses a risk as a result of a resident’s hoarding problem.

To start addressing this issue, Waterloo Region established a Hoarding Advisory Network in 2008. The goal of the network was to discuss hoarding cases and coordinate responses by community agencies.

While this was an important first step, SHOW felt more needed to be done. So in July 2013, SHOW expanded its contribution to the network by establishing The Hoarding Project (THP).

THP assists people with hoarding disorders by providing support to both them and their landlords. Hoarding can be a symptom of an underlying psychological disability. As a result, residents with a hoarding disorder may be entitled to protection under the Ontario Human Rights Code, which protects their right to occupancy without discrimination against their disability. THP balances a commitment to human rights with a landlord’s need to manage risk by acting as advocates for the vulnerable and providing education and training to landlords so they can understand and identify the warning signs of hoarding.
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Identifying and Acting on the Warning Signs

Related Resources:

SHOW website

Empower Cleaning Services – Established by SHOW, rates are $35/hour per staff.

Clutter Image Rating Scale

Since its inception THP has prevented more than 300 evictions. One of the key tools Kim recommends using is annual inspections. Staff can be trained to recognize the difference between untidy and hoarded conditions by familiarizing themselves with resources like the clutter scale. To protect the health and safety of residents, staff should also ensure:

  • Accessibility to egresses (doors and window to the exterior)
  • Open and accessible ventilation
  • Unblocked sprinkler systems
  • The stove is clear and accessible
  • Smoke alarms are working
  • There are pathways to and from all rooms in the unit
  • There is no storage of large amounts of potentially explosive or highly flammable materials

If you have any questions or concerns from your inspections, Kim recommends talking it over with your local fire department and request they complete an assessment.

In cases where you identify hoarding during inspections, THP recommends directly addressing it with the resident. People who hoard are often unaware of their disorder and its impact on others. Kim advises:

  • Talk with your tenant face-to-face about your concerns
  • Use a gentle approach and let the person tell his/her story
  • Ask them if s/he can suggest solutions to address the safety issues or health concerns

Kim also recommends connecting the resident with any resources or local supports that might be available to address the issue. People who struggle with hoarding require additional support to control their tendencies to accumulate belongings.

If you need assistance and don’t know where to turn or if you are interested in learning more, contact THP consultant Kim Hodder.

Have you got a story you’d like to share about how your organization manages risk? We’d love to hear from you. Email me with details!

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Program Updates

Property Claims, November 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016

While the number of property claims is down compared to this period last year, the draw on the Property Claims Fund to cover smaller claims is roughly the same. Burst pipes accounted for the majority of the water damage claims.

propclaimsq1-2016

Claims Fund

As mentioned above, the Property Claims Fund is sitting at roughly the same place as last year but significantly better than two years ago. Four months into the term, it was at $8.9M.

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Liability Claims

Compared to previous years, we’ve had fewer liability claims in this policy term – possibly due to the warmer weather this year since slips, trips and falls typically make up the majority of these claims.

That said, claims will continue to arrive during the year, so the picture on liability claims will evolve as the policy term continues.

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Recent Insurance Events in the News

Looking for July 2016 News?

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While disasters aren’t pleasant to talk about, they can help us get new insights into risk management and lend perspective to the human and economic cost of claims. The following are just some of the stories on incidents reported in the news since my last update:

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Risk Management News In and Around the Sector

First some acknowledgements to organizations for effective risk management! The staff at Northern Linkage Community Housing in Thunder Bay (story above) deserves credit for a job well done in evacuating their building. We’re pleased to see local fire services publicly praising the efforts of staff and championing coordinated contingency planning, like with this story about a condominium fire in Pembroke.

OCH-SHOW

There’s another great story involving a group member coordinating with partners: in December Ottawa Fire Services, in partnership with the City of Ottawa Older Adult Plan and Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), delivered 110 SmartBurners™ to OCH in an effort to reduce the risk of kitchen fires in the homes of vulnerable seniors. You can read more about this on the Ottawa Fire Services blog. The gift was well timed, coinciding with the Christmas season, when we typically see an increase in stovetop fires.

Speaking of fires, we’ve seen over the past few months a number of noteworthy items on fires and safety reminders:

  • Solar panels and fires: Do you have rooftop mounted solar panels? In August, the Office of the Fire Marshall updated their guidance to fire departments for fires occurring at buildings with solar panels, which you may wish to review for yourself.
  • Alarm maintenance – who’s responsible? According to recent decisions on fines, the answer is “it depends” on what investigators find after a fire has occurred. In one recent story from the Sault, both the landlord and the tenant were charged – the former for failing to ensure the alarm was maintained, the latter for ignoring the low battery signal and not alerting the landlord. In another case in Brampton, the landlord alone was held responsible for failing to maintain alarms, which resulted in one fatality. Either way, the lesson here is that you are legally required to test your smoke alarms annually.
  • Balancing fire safety with resident understanding: The issue of furniture in building common areas has recently gotten profile due to the fire at a Toronto Community Housing seniors’ building and a dispute brought to the Landlord and Tenant Board between Thorold Municipal Non-Profit and residents of one of its seniors’ buildings. Providers are legally bound to comply the Ontario Fire Code, which prohibits furniture in the lobby, and to take measures to reduce risks in their buildings. However they may feel pressure from residents to bend the rules, particularly if staff has unknowingly violated the law in the past. This is highly risky. We believe it’s important for providers to educate residents on the risks of not complying with the Fire Code – so even if residents do not agree with compliance and are upset, they will at least understand the reasons. If you can suggest alternative meeting places or ways to get involved in the building community, even better.

Finally, there was a precedent-setting ruling by a Human Rights Tribunal relating to Directors & Officers liability. The case involved a housing co-op where harassment was occurring. The tribunal determined that the Board was responsible for addressing the issue and communicating with tenants about the actions they were taking. The provider was ordered to pay $30,000 to 10 members. Directors and Officers liability remains an area where many providers are unclear on their responsibilities. To this end, we’re in the process of developing tools for providers to assist them in better understanding the law and their obligations. We hope to launch these tools in the Fall at our first Insurance & Risk Management Forum in Toronto. Details on both of these items will be available in upcoming Managing Risky Business newsletters!

 



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