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Q&A - Homeowner

Q. My car was broken into while I was shopping at the mall. A brand new golf bag and a leather briefcase I had just purchased for my husband were stolen from the trunk. Do I claim these items through my automobile or homeowners insurance policy?
A. Your home insurance will cover items stolen from you car that are not permanent fixtures of your car, as long as you have receipts to prove ownership of those items.

Q. What is the difference between overland flooding and water damage from things like a burst pipe or sewer backup?
A. Overland flooding usually occurs when bodies of water like rivers overflow onto land and cause damage. Things like a burst pipe, or overflowing washing machine are covered by your home policy.  Sewer backup is covered if you purchased coverage for this risk.

Q. Is my house covered if I am on vacation?
A. Generally speaking, your insurance coverage continues while you are on vacation, but the length of time you are away and the steps you take to protect your home while you are away, can impact whether a loss is covered. If you are planning to be away for more than a couple of days, it is recommended that you contact your insurance broker to determine what action you must take to protect your home from loss and ensure a claim is not denied. This is most critical during colder months. For example, there is no coverage for damage caused by freezing of any part of a plumbing, heating or domestic water container unless you had arranged for a competent person to enter the dwelling on a daily basis.

Q. My son is going away to college next fall. Is he still covered under our homeowners insurance?
A. Most likely he will be covered, as long as he is a dependent and is temporarily living outside your house. Speak to us to find out what the limit of insurance is on any personal property he will take with him.

Q. How do valuation methods affect the coverage of my furniture and other belongings?
A. When the insurance valuation on your home is recalculated, it may increase the building insurance limit. However, your policy has other limits you should consider with the assistance of your insurance broker. Items such as fine art, antiques, collections, recreation equipment and other belongings may exceed specific limits on the policy and should be scheduled separately.

Q. Why are insurance valuations on homes increasing?
A. Most comprehensive homeowners’ policies guarantee the replacement of your home and contents in the event of a loss. In order to provide that guarantee, the value of your home must be determined at the time the policy is purchased, and the policy must adequately cover your home to that value. Insurance brokers perform that valuation for insurance purposes. It’s one of the many services a broker provides at no extra charge to you. An insurance valuation is different from an appraised value or market value. It also doesn’t include the value of the land. Instead, it is based on what it would cost to demolish and remove destroyed portions of your home and then reconstruct your home. This means that as the cost of construction materials and labour increase, so too does the cost of replacing your home. As a result, you may see the insurance valuation of your home increase, even if the market value does not. Though insurance brokers work with their customers to determine a valuation for insurance purposes, a broker is not an appraiser. In some cases the advice and services of an appraiser should be sought. It is also important to notify your broker of any significant renovations to your home as adding an extension or finishing your basement can affect your valuation and your policy needs to be up-dated to reflect these changes.

Q. While on vacation in Florida, I rented a boat to go fishing. I accidentally caused a fire which damaged the boat and injured others trying to help. Am I covered?
A. Yes. Your personal liability coverage protects you when you are legally responsible for bodily injury or property damage to someone else.

Q. I left my apartment to go shopping, unaware that the water was still running in the kitchen. Upon my return my landlord said I was responsible for the damage to the apartment below and asked if I had insurance. I have a tenant package, am I covered?
A. The liability coverage of your Tenant policy would pay for the cleanup costs, debris removal and damages to the building, and for the damaged property belonging to your neighbor.

Q. I bought a digital camera while I was on vacation overseas last month. I forgot to declare it at Canadian Customs when I returned. It was stolen. Am I covered for this loss?
A. No, this loss is not covered. Any items illegally kept or acquired, or not declared at Customs, are not covered by any policy.

Q. If my apartment was damaged by fire, restoration could take weeks. How will my policy respond?
A. Your policy does include coverage for temporary accommodations like a motel room and any other increased living expenses. Your broker will advise you of the claims process and work with the insurer to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible. 

Q. Is my all terrain vehicle (ATV) covered by my homeowners policy?
A. No, ATVs are excluded from Home-owners policies. You must buy an Auto policy for them. You can be charged by the police for driving with no insurance by merely crossing the road on one.

Q. What's the difference between vacant property and unoccupied property?
A. Property is deemed to be vacant when the occupants have moved with no intention of returning regardless whether they left personal property behind. Insurance will not cover vacant property. Property is deemed unoccupied when there is an intention to return to it and is covered.

Q. Why do companies want to inspect my home?
A. Inspections are made to ensure there are no fire or liability hazards. Inspectors pay specific attention to roofs, plumbing, wiring, and whether there is a wood stove on the premises.

Q. My home is assessed at $70,000. Why do I have to insure it for more?
A. Your home assessment is for tax purposes and it roughly equates to the value of your home if you sold it on the open market. For insurance purposes, you have to ensure it up to its replacement value which is the cost of having to rebuild it at today's prices for building materials and labour. This is almost always more.