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Most home insurance policies cover wind, rain, hail damage
The long road to recovery continues for homeowners hit with severe damage in the deadly storm that roared across southern Ontario and into Quebec on the Victoria Day long weekend, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
If your home was battered, you’ve likely already been in touch with your insurance provider and started the claims process. If your home was left unscathed, you might be wondering what kind of coverage you’d receive if your home incurs damage in the next storm.
It’s worth investigating. Flood, wildfire, heat, wind and hail events are growing in frequency and severity, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), the national industry association representing the country’s private home, auto and business insurers.
The new normal for yearly insured catastrophic losses in Canada is $2 billion – most due to water-related damage. Compare that to 1983 to 2008, when Canadian insurers averaged $422 million a year in severe weather-related losses, IBC reports.
Unlike auto insurance, home insurance isn’t mandatory by law, though most banks or mortgage holders insist you purchase and show proof of home insurance before lending you money to buy a home.
Most basic home insurance policies cover damage to your property that’s caused by severe weather like wind, rain and hail, including damage from felled trees, blown out windows and roof damage, says Matt Hands, director of insurance at Ratehub.ca, a financial product comparison site.
Here are some examples that are especially relevant following the recent storm:
If a tree falls on your property, you’re covered for any damage it causes to your insured items, which might include a detached garage and shed, but not the cost of having the tree itself removed.
Forget booking a hotel if the power is out. “The only time your insurance is going to pay for you to move away is if there’s some sort of major issue that causes your house to be unlivable and it now needs extensive repairs,” Hands says.
Good fences make good neighbours and if yours is damaged during a severe weather event, your policy will cover half and their policy will also cover half – which also means you each pay the deductible.
Only the section of the fence that was damaged will be replaced. If a neighbour’s tree falls on your property, meanwhile, any damage to your property is covered by your insurance, not your neighbour’s.
Sudden and accidental bursting of plumbing pipes and appliances is covered by all home insurance policies, but if freezing causes the escape of water, damage might not be covered.
Finally, if you purchased comprehensive or all perils coverage, damage to vehicles from wind, hail or water is typically covered. This coverage isn’t mandatory, so check your policy, IBC reminds.
For many years, home insurance policies in Canada didn’t cover loss or damage caused by overland flooding, a term used to describe when bodies of fresh water, such as rivers or dams, overflow onto dry land. That’s no longer the case, IBC reports.
Many insurers now offer overland flood coverage for most homes across the country. The coverage is optional and based on risk and is commonly combined with sewer backup coverage, which is also optional.
“Each is highly recommended because of how expensive repairs can be,” Hands says. “If your basement floods, you’re potentially looking at $35,000 to $40,000 to have it repaired properly because you don’t want mould. The additional $10 to $30 a month to have overland flooding added to your insurance policy makes so much sense.”
MAKING A CLAIM
After a storm, assess your property when it safe to do so. Check your roof for missing shingles, for example, to prevent future water damage. If you need to make a claim, review your policy.
“We’re not asking for everyone to know their policy back in front,” says Hands. “It’s complicated and I understand why most people don’t understand or even feel comfortable talking about it. That’s why you have your broker or your agent. They’ll go through everything with you.”
Before filing a claim, decide if the cost of repairs is more than your deductible and more than future increases in your home insurance. The typical home insurance deductible is $1,000 and once you make a claim, your insurance rates can go up by 10 to 15 per cent each year for three years.
If you decide to make a claim, list all damaged or destroyed items, IBC advises. If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts and warranties. Take photos of damage incurred and keep damaged items unless they pose a health hazard. If you’ve been displaced, keep all receipts related to cleanup and living expenses.
Once you’ve reported a loss, your insurance company will assign a claims adjustor to investigate the circumstances of the loss, examine the documents you provide and explain the process. Take notes and ask questions.
Emergencies can happen at any time and without warning but with a little preparation, you can respond quickly to help yourself and others. Consider the following tips from the federal government:
• Create an emergency plan and assemble an emergency kit. Guides are available at www.getprepared.gc.ca.
• If a severe storm is forecast, secure everything that might get blown around or torn loose. Flying objects, such as garbage cans and lawn furniture, can injure people and damage property.
• Trim dead branches and cut down dead trees to reduce the risk of them falling onto your house during a storm.