The Christmas season came to an abrupt end for Paul Stanczak and Danielle Bablich on Boxing Day.
After getting a call from a neighbor at about 5:20 a.m. on Dec. 26, the couple found their partially built cottage on Ontario’s Georgian Bay was burning.
Stanczak drove the three minutes from Bablich’s parents’ house to find the modest chalet into which they’d previously put more than $425,000 torched in minutes by an arson suspect.
“I just stood across the street on another neighbor’s yard… and watched our dream go up in flames.” Stanczak, 44, said in a phone interview that there’s nothing he can do about it.
“It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever been through,” said Bablich, 37, who joined her partner at the cottage turned crime scene after calming their six-year-old son.
“I watched it just finish burning and collapse into itself.”
The Toronto couple had worked on the Scandinavian-style chalet for over a year, overseeing the project as trees were cleared, the foundation was laid and the structure went up, complete with drywall and electrical and water hook-ups by Christmas.
But they chose not to insure it, in part because they relied solely on their savings so there was no bank loan involved to require insurance.
Experts say a rose-tinted mindset can wind up with disastrous consequences for property owners who opt to forego coverage.
If there’s no lender in the mix, homeowners can decide not to insure their building, its contents and the cost of accommodations should the house suffer damage.
But Insurance Bureau of Canada spokesperson Anne Marie Thomas says owners often neglect to consider liability insurance, which covers them in case of visitor injury and makes up part of most home insurance policies.
“I don’t think it’s as rare as people would imagine that it is,” she said of uninsured homes.
“Even if it was literally just a shack, it’s always a good idea to have insurance … for the liability portion.
“If someone trips, slips, breaks their arm, injures their head – the dog tripped them up on the way in the door, whatever – they can be sued by the person coming into the home,” Thomas said. “Even the mailman delivering mail.”
Stanczak and Bablich noted that the tradespeople they contracted had liability insurance and that the property was gated.
“Especially with no gas hook-up, there’s no reason for there to be a fire either,” Stanczak said.
“Hindsight is 20/20. You never think it’s going to happen to you,” Bablich added.
Ontario Provincial Police Const. David Hobson said an investigation into the suspected arson is ongoing.
Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call 1-800-222-8477 or go to canadiancrimestoppers.org.
The pair is hoping that a GoFundMe page named “Support Arson Victims Paul and Danielle” will help them finish the house, which they envisioned as a rural retreat and a legacy for their son, but the project is currently in limbo.
“We don’t want this to deter us; we want to keep moving forward,” Stanczak added. “Can we, on the other hand, go to a property where so much misery has befallen us?”