Photo: James Bombales

Where you live, the cost and age of your home, the type of heating source you have, and a variety of other factors influence the price of home insurance. According to InsuranceHotline.com, home insurance costs an average of $915 in Ontario. Residents of Toronto pay even more — an average of $1,150 per year. In Barrie they pay less, averaging $882 per year for home insurance. 

Home insurance can protect one of your most valuable possessions and make sure you are covered in the event you are liable for an accident on the premises. Policyholders may offer protection for several things:

  • Building and detached structures: This could include your home and possibly detached structures like your garage or shed.
  • Personal property: This may include your furniture, appliances, clothing and jewellery. 
  • Additional living expenses: If your home were to be deemed unfit to live in, due to fire damage for example, your policy may include reimbursement for additional expenses while residing away from home. 
  • Legal liability: This portion could protect you against lawsuits regarding your property.

You’ve put the effort into protecting your assets, which is a great start. Now, make sure you avoid these five things that could void your home insurance. 

1. Leaving your home vacant or unoccupied

Photo: James Bombales

Everyone goes on vacation, and it’s important to have someone look after your property when you are gone. It’s even more important to have someone check up on your property if it’s sitting vacant, whether it’s waiting for new renters or to be sold. 

A lot of issues can happen within a short period of time, especially in the winter months. Insurers could require daily visits to occur if you are away for more than four consecutive days during the winter. This could mitigate any risks and prevent further destruction from burst pipes, snow damage or heat loss. 

If a property is left empty for more than 30 days it is considered vacant. If you don’t notify your insurance company of its vacancy, they could void your coverage. You may have to obtain a vacancy permit from your insurer to make sure your property is covered in the event of fire or water damage, or even vandalism. 

If you’re a snowbird and fly down south for roughly half the year, you would be leaving your house for far more than 30 days. Because there is intent to return, and furniture remains on the property, your home could be considered unoccupied rather than vacant. This determination doesn’t lessen any of the risks associated with extended absences though. Policyowners should ask their insurer for a list of things that need to be done to insure coverage never ceases while they’re away.

2. Not informing your insurer of major upgrades

Photo: James Bomables

Investing in your home is never a bad idea, however, not informing your insurance provider of your renovations is. Certain renovations can increase the value of your home, along with its replacement cost. Make sure you inform your insurer of all work that has been done on your home to ensure you maintain adequate coverage. 

Some renovations that could increase your premiums:

  • Adding a pool 
  • Adding a basement unit
  • Adding a detached structure

There are also some renovations that could decrease your premiums:

  • New roof 
  • High-efficiency plumbing fixtures 
  • Alarm systems

Make sure your contractor has their own liability insurance and all the necessary permits before they start work on your home. 

3. Starting a home-based business

Photo: James Bombales, design by Lisa Canning Interiors

Starting a home-based business can come with a lot of expenses. You may have inventory or high-value equipment, and you may even require visits from clients. You’ll want to make sure that you and your investment are protected. 

While some aspects may be covered by home insurance, you’ll want to check with your insurer. Home insurance policies typically protect your personal property, which may not include your business property. There is also added risk if a client comes to your home. If they slip and fall, you could be liable. Your home insurance policy may not be designed to cover these extra risks. Therefore, an insurer may recommend you have liability insurance, business interruption insurance, or commercial property insurance.

4. Conducting illicit activities on the premises

Photo by Get Budding on Unsplash

Cannabis has been legal in Canada for close to a year, but there are still strict laws regarding growing plants at home, therefore, there are potential insurance risks as well. If you decide to grow more plants than the legal limit, your insurance company may void your policy for illegal criminal activity. 

Other insurance risks associated with cannabis include:

  • Water damage and mold
  • Electrical fires from grow lights
  • Personal liability if someone injures themselves under the influence on your property

Since cannabis is legal, disclose the presence of marijuana plants to your insurer. There could be exclusionary language, specific to growing marijuana, written into your home insurance policy. It would be in your best interest to make sure your policy keeps you covered.

5. Misrepresenting or omitting facts 

Photo by Hayden Scott on Unsplash

When it comes to insurance, honesty is the best policy. Exaggerating damage, filing claims for damage or valuables that don’t exist, and omitting facts about your property are all considered insurance fraud. Omitting the fact that you have a wood burning fireplace and having subsequent fire damage would be one example. Not disclosing your property has a heritage designation may be another. 

Always answer insurance questions honestly and never exaggerate on a claim — otherwise, it could be costly. If your insurance provider discovers that you have lied on your claim, they can cancel your policy for non-disclosure, and add it to your record for three years. This means you might have to use high-risk insurance providers during that period and could pay more in premiums. 

To make sure your home insurance coverage never ceases, remember to update your insurer of all additions to your home, purposes of your property, and of any extended vacations or trips. Disclose all relevant facts about your home, and never exaggerate or file a false claim. You’ll want your home insurance to work for you if you ever need it.

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