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Heading south this winter? You may want to check your home insurance policy before leaving

Make sure you understand your insurance policy to protect your home and peace of mind
GuelphToday_Spotlight_Title Image_Todd O'Donnell_Dec 2019

Whether you’re a snowbird who prefers a warmer climate during the Canadian winter months or one of the 50% of Canadians who take a beach holiday annually to escape the winter blues, it’s important to ensure your home is properly protected while you’re away. 

Regardless of the all precautions you have in place, a home that is left unoccupied for long periods is more prone to theft and at a greater risk of being damaged. However, with a little bit of proactive planning and the right insurance policies in place, you can leave your home knowing you’ve prepared for the unexpected. 

Here’s what to consider before leaving your home unoccupied this winter. 

Check your home insurance policy before you leave

Every home insurance policy is different, so the first thing you should do is review your current policy and determine if your coverage is sufficient. You must understand the specifics and terms included so there is no excuse for your coverage to be denied should something occur. For example, many policies state that if you leave your home empty for more than four days at a time, you may not be covered as it is considered “unmonitored.” If you’re away for the duration of the winter this is obviously insufficient, so ask your insurance agent what you have to do to ensure your coverage remains valid. 

Have someone check on your home and beef up your security system

According to Desjardins Insurance, you need to have a trusted loved one or neighbour check your home regularly while you are away. However, it’s important to know the required frequency of visits according to your home insurance policy - some policies may state that someone is required to check your home every 24 hours for your coverage to remain valid. 

Desjardins Insurance also suggests using technology to your advantage. Having a “smart home” that includes video monitoring will allow you to keep an eye on your home from any location where there’s access to the internet. Some smart home systems also allow you to control your lights and blinds to make your home appear occupied. 

Otherwise, an alarm system, exterior security cameras, and timed lights are all great deterrents for potential burglars.

Aside from theft and vandalism, damage to your home due to weather and extreme temperature could occur while it’s unoccupied. Ask someone to check the exterior of your home for any damage due to ice, wind or debris and ensure that walkways are clear to avoid being held liable for any slips, trips or falls. Also, check that your furnace is working properly to ensure the temperature in your home is maintained, preventing your pipes from freezing and bursting. 

Protect yourself from water damage

Water damage has become the top insurance claim in Canada. Because of this, Insurance Canada suggests that you not only shut off your water but drain your pipes entirely and add non-toxic antifreeze into your plumbing system. If a power outage occurs or your furnace breaks down unexpectedly, the antifreeze will prevent your pipes, and anything that uses water such as your toilet or dishwasher, from bursting or cracking causing potential water damage.

It’s important to ask your insurance agent what you are covered for if water damage occurs in your absence. Even if you have someone come in regularly to check on your home, your coverage may be void if it’s determined that the maintenance terms in your policy were not properly followed or executed.

For information keeping your home insurance coverage valid while absent from your home, or for a competitive quote, click here