If you choose to make a claim against the City, the online Incident Report Form needs to be completed.  All claims are required to be submitted in writing.

The form/notice must be submitted to Legal Services as soon as possible following the occurrence.  The Municipal Act, 2001 states that in certain situations a person is required to place the City on notice within 10 days from the date of an occurrence.

Claims requesting reimbursement for damage to property should be supported by photos, quotes, invoices and any other relevant documentation outlining a breakdown of the repairs required.

Upon receipt, Legal Services will commence an investigation to determine whether or not the City is legally liable.  For further details, please refer to the section below regarding City negligence.

Typically, property damage claim investigations are completed within 60 days. In cases of extreme weather events such as heavy rain, snowstorms or windstorms the City does receive a higher volume of claims which generally extends the time it takes to process claims. In these cases, the City’s investigation may take longer than 60 days. Repairs to your property may be expedited by making a claim through your insurance company.

For additional information on the Claims process, please contact Legal Services at 519-332-0330 extension 3398 or by email to legal@sarnia.ca.

What You Should Know Before Making a Claim

If you have auto or property insurance, these should be the first avenues pursued in the event of a loss. Your existing insurance coverage may in fact be more extensive than any recovery that could be available from the City. If your insurer believes that the City is responsible, they may seek to recover damages against the City on your behalf.

Any damage to your property can be upsetting and disruptive. However, it’s important to know that the City of Sarnia is not your insurer. Making a claim against the City does not guarantee payment. A claimant must be able to establish that their damages were caused by the City’s negligence.

Establishing Negligence Against the City

If you choose to submit a claim against the City, it is important to outline why you believe the City is responsible for your accident and provide proof of your damages.

As a claimant, you must be able to establish your damages were caused by the City’s negligence. The City will conduct an investigation to determine if it met its duty of care.

The investigation of your claim must be completed before the City will be in a position to consider any compensation with respect to repairs/costs. It is your decision if you choose to proceed with repairing damaged property prior to the outcome of your claim. 

Like most Ontario municipalities, the City only compensates when it is legally liable for the damage sustained. If you are not able to establish that your damages were caused by the City’s negligence, then the City will not pay your claim.  If the City exercised a reasonable standard of care, your claim will be denied.

Common Types of Claims

Please consult the drop-down information below for more details on specific claim types.

Potholes

Fluctuations in weather, vibrations and traffic volumes all create stress on the asphalt road surface, which can result in potholes.

Sarnia experiences significant freeze/thaw cycles each winter and spring. Potholes are formed as a result of water penetrating the asphalt through cracks in the road. After the moisture freezes and expands, sections of the pavement are forced up. This cycle, together with high volumes of traffic, creates holes in road surfaces.

Pothole Claims Investigation

Upon notification of a pothole claim causing damage, an investigation will commence to determine if the City is responsible for your loss.

The City’s investigation consists of gathering and reviewing records to determine if regular inspection and repair standards were upheld in accordance with the Minimum Maintenance Standards (MMS) for Municipal Highways, Ontario Regulation 239/02 under the Municipal Act, 2001.

The Municipal Act sets out statutory obligations that the City must follow to avoid liability in cases of road damage, including potholes. These are called the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways (MMS) and can be found on the Provincial Government’s E­Laws website, at the following link: Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways.

The MMS comprises a series of standards for various aspects of road maintenance which vary, depending on the speed limit and traffic volume on a particular roadway. These prescribed standards require the City to fix a pothole within a period that ranges between 4 days and 30 days, depending on the size of the pothole and whether it is on a paved or an unpaved road. It is important to note that the City’s obligation to fix a pothole is triggered only after the municipality becomes aware of the problem.

When the City receives a pothole claim, Legal Services will investigate to determine whether the City was in compliance with MMS at the time of incident. If the City met those standards, the City is not responsible for any claim for damages.

  • If you choose to submit a claim for damages, you must complete the City’s Incident Report Form.
  • Please refer to our Claims Process page, for more general information about making a claim against the City.

Timelines

Typically, claims investigations are completed within 60 days.

In cases of extreme storm events such as heavy rain, snowstorms or windstorms the City does receive a higher volume of claims which generally extends the time it takes to process claims. In these cases, the City’s investigation may take longer than 60 days.

Repairs to your personal property may be expedited by making a claim through your insurance company.

If Your Claim is Denied

The City receives numerous pothole claims each season. The majority of pothole claims made against the City of Sarnia are denied as the City’s maintenance standards are regularly met or exceed those that are prescribed by the MMS. If you still wish to pursue your claim after being denied compensation, your next option is to proceed with legal action.

Sewer Back Up/Flooding

While the City regularly cleans, inspects and repairs its sewer main systems, unanticipated problems can occasionally occur.

Most sewer back-ups happen because there is a blockage somewhere in the lateral.

Blockages may be due to:

  • Accumulation of grease, paper, kitchen waste or other foreign objects
  • Presence of tree roots
  • Collapse, misalignment or other structural defects of the lateral

The weather can also have a significant impact on City sewer main systems and watermains.

Severe weather occurrences that pass through the City can strain the sewer system.  Significant rainfall over a short period of time can result in the City’s storm and combined sewers being overwhelmed taking in more water than they are designed to accommodate, resulting in sewer backups.

Additionally, pressures created by the freeze/thaw cycles during the winter and spring can place a significant amount of strain on watermains. These pressures can result in leaks and ruptures.

Homeowners who have incurred water damage to their home or its contents should contact their insurance company for assistance. Your insurance company may then submit a claim to the City for an investigation on your behalf.

What to do in Event of Sewer Back-up/Flooding

When experiencing any sewer back-up issues, homeowners must first notify the City.  Call 519-332-0330 during regular business hours, or 519-344-8861 ext. 5263 after hours and holidays.

City staff will inspect the sewer main near your property to determine whether or not it is functioning normally.

  • If the problem is not related to the sewer main, City staff can typically help identify the problem, if resources are available.
  • If the problem is in the home’s drain system, the homeowner will be advised to contact a plumber.
  • If the problem is related to either the sanitary or storm lateral, repairs may be the homewner’s responsibility, City’s responsibility, or a shared responsibility. Responsibility can only be determined after City staff have reviewed all of the available information.

If you have sustained significant damage, please contact your own insurer.

Preventative Efforts

There are a number of steps homeowners can take to reduce the contributing factors that cause weather-related sewage backups.

For more information on Prevention efforts, please visit our Basement Flooding page. The City also offers a Basement Flooding Grant Program that some homeowners may qualify for.

Municipal Liability with Respect to Sewer/Flooding

When making a claim against the City for flood or sewer back-up damages it’s important to note that Public Works staff are not involved in the management of claims.  All claims are handled through the City’s Legal Department.

The City will only be held responsible for damage to private property if you are able to establish that damage was caused by the City’s negligence.

Even when industry design standards change because of advances in technology, the law does not require a municipality to rebuild its older sewer systems to meet new standards due to costs or other considerations.

Sewer Back-Up/Flooding Claim Investigation

  • If you choose to submit a claim for damages, you must complete the City’s Incident Report Form.
  • Please refer to our Claims Process page, for more general information about making a claim against the City.

Upon notification of a sewer back-up/flooding claim, an investigation will commence to determine if the City is responsible for your loss.

The City’s investigation consists of gathering and reviewing records to determine if the City met its standard of care.

Please note that if you contacted a plumber before contacting the City, or otherwise file a claim against the City and you have not allowed the City’s Public Works Department the opportunity to investigate, this could have an impact on your ability to prove that the damages that you suffered from a basement flood/sewer backup were due to the City’s negligence.

Please visit our page on Blocked Sewers for further information.

Timelines

Typically, property damage claims are completed within 60 days.

In cases of extreme storm events such as heavy rain, snowstorms or windstorms the City does receive a higher volume of claims which generally extends the time it takes to process insurance claims. In these cases, the City’s investigation may take longer than 60 days.

A storm event can be defined as intense and sustained precipitation (rain and/or snow) that:

  • exceeds the design capacity of local sewers and/or trunk sewers;
  • results in a sudden and significant increase in customer service calls reported of basement flooding and/or blocked sewer service lines, and;

Repairs to your property may be expedited by making a claim through your insurance company.

If Your Claim is Denied

If City records show that the City’s standard of care was met, your claim will be denied.

It’s important to know that the majority of property damage claims made against the City are denied as the City regularly meets or exceeds standard of care.

If you still wish to pursue your claim after being denied compensation, your next option is to proceed with legal action.

Fallen Trees/Windstorm Damage

When making a claim against the City for property damage related to City trees, there are several factors that are considered in determining the City’s responsibility. Some of these factors include:

  • Whether the City was put on notice or was aware of the condition of the tree prior to the incident
  • If the City was aware of the condition of the tree, then whether the City’s inspection and maintenance activities were reasonable

It’s important to note that if a tree/limb failure occurred as a result of a storm event, then generally the City will not be responsible for your property damage. Additionally, it should be noted that the presence of internal decay in a tree discovered after a loss does not necessarily mean that the tree was unhealthy or that the City is responsible.

In the case of fallen trees and branches, it is best to contact your insurance company for assistance.

Investigation

The mere fact that a City tree caused damage does not trigger automatic compensation from the City. An investigation will look into the history of the tree to consider all factors.

The City’s Forestry Department records will be reviewed to determine if the City was on notice of the condition of the tree prior to the loss and if so, whether reasonable maintenance, inspection and response standards were met.

If you choose to submit a claim for damages, you must complete the City’s Incident Report Form.

Please refer to our Claims Process page, for more general information about making a claim against the City.

Timelines

Typically, property damage claims are completed within 60 days.

In cases of extreme storm events such as heavy rain, snowstorms or windstorms the City does receive a higher volume of claims which generally extends the time it takes to process claims. In these cases, the City’s investigation may take longer than 60 days.

Repairs to your property may be expedited by making a claim through your insurance company.

If Your Claim is Denied

It’s important to know that the majority of property damage claims made against the City of Sarnia are denied as the City regularly meets or exceeds its standard of care.

If you still wish to pursue your claim after being denied compensation, your next option is to proceed with legal action.