New policies from Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) are taking a bite out of the rodent-infestation repair business as companies brace for impact by laying off staff.
Along with odour, however, there are lingering concerns about viral contamination and damage to vehicle systems that will go unrepaired.
The public insurer expects to save $6 million each year, about half the former claims exposure, from the relaxed standards while repair shops expect the average invoice to fall to around $250 from between $3,000 and $6,000.
“We’re going to be OK, we have other work we have to do,” said Rosanne Montemurro, owner of Winnipeg RV Service and Repair, one of about 20 shops across Manitoba accredited for rodent removal, “but I’m laying off three people.”
Before March 1, rodent infestation was treated like a hazmat (hazardous materials) claim, with owners instructed to stop driving the vehicle and await a tow truck. Insurance adjusters in body suits and respirators would confirm the claim and send the vehicle to an accredited shop for restoration.
Infestations inside the passenger compartment would typically include stripping the interior of all soft materials and deep-cleaning carpets and upholstery.
Now, based on new information from Public Health Canada, a claim involves eliminating the live infestation, cleaning visible contamination and ignoring the rest.
Manitoba Public Insurance didn’t respond to specific questions, but Matt Schaubroeck, manager of external communications, said in a statement that, “Safety is our first priority, which is why our claim procedures are being aligned in accordance to guidelines established by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Manitoba Public Insurance is in the process of finalizing our rodent claim procedures while working together with the industry.”
Dr. David Safronetz, chief of viral zoonoses (diseases that transfer between various species, including from rodents to humans) for the National Microbiology Laboratory, said the risk of a hantavirus infection diminishes rapidly with the passage of time.
“These are not overly robust virus particles,” Safronetz said in an interview. “It is widely believed these viruses do not maintain their infectivity beyond a matter of weeks.”
Other restoration shops in Winnipeg shared Montemurro’s concern, but weren’t prepared to go on record.
“Not disagreeing with what Roseanne (Montemurro) said at all, but I’m taking a different approach,” said one shop owner, who spoke under condition of anonymity. “We are going to be putting our facts together and we’ll have something to say then.”