CTV News has learned about major changes to Manitoba Public Insurance's rodent claim policy, which came into effect March 1.
The auto insurer said it expects to save $6 million a year.
Documents obtained by CTV News, show trapping can now be done by an exterminator, not all vehicles will be disassembled, and air quality tests will no longer be required.
The new policy is a blow to companies who perform remediation and restoration work on damaged vehicles.
Rosanne Montemurro runs two out of about 20 remediation companies approved in Manitoba to rid vehicles of the mess mice, rats, and squirrels leave behind.
Her staff at Winnipeg RV Service and Repair & Rosanne's Interior Restoration repair up to 500 vehicles and 60 trailers a year.
How much work she will continue doing is unclear.
It's feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us, said Montemurro. "Our business seems to have been given away to another type of business that has not been through the quality control and accreditation we've had to go through."
COSTS AND WAIT TIMES
Between 2012 and 2015, thousands of claims for rodent damage cost MPI $35.5 million.
With 3,763 claims in 2016, the cost spiked to almost $15 million.
The claims are also costing time. MPI documents show, the average duration of a claim was 71 days.
"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, said MPI in a statement emailed to CTV News Wednesday.
Poulin's Pest Control has already handled a couple dozen claims.
We'll asses the level of activity in there, and we'll deem whether the interior cabin, that's all we'll be dealing with, is it dangerous, is it clean-up-able, do we have the right products to do the disinfection, said Taz Stuart, entomologist and director of technical operations.
He said if staff believe a rodent made its way beyond the passenger cabin, Poulin's will notify MPI and the customer.
Still, Montemurro can't help be disappointed. With fewer claims coming her way, she's already laid off staff and said it's only a matter of time before more are let go.
"It would have been great if MPI had given the shops a chance to be part of the solution, financially or the wait times," Montemurro said.
MPI said Wednesday it had the most stringent rodent claims policy in Canada, and the changes will bring it in line with industry standards.
It said it's in the process of finalizing its rodent claim procedures, but a pamphlet on the new rodent policy change should be available within the next two weeks
The new policy will also be put online.
MPI said it will have information on how to protect your vehicle and how to make a claim.
RODENTS IN VEHICLES AND HANTAVIRUS
One of the reasons only specialized companies handled rodent damage in the past was because hantavirus.
People can become infected through contact with hantavirus infected rodents or their urine and droppings.
One Manitoba expert says the risk of infection is greatest when rodent droppings are fresh, and the risk of infection in our province is very low.
"The vehicles are not likely being cleaned immediately, so by the time that they've even sat and gone in for cleaning, they may already be relatively noninfectious if not completely non-infectious," David Safronetz, a hantavirus expert with the Public Health Agency of Canada in Winnipeg.
Manitoba Health said hantavirus is rare, but serious. The last recorded death from hantavirus was in 2012. There was one recorded case of hantavirus in Manitoba in 2016.
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