If you’re travelling during the holiday season, you’ll want to read this

Luggage – check. Travel Insurance – check. Dog-sitter – check.

What about your home insurance?

‘Tis the season for winter getaway! Whether you and the family are traveling to the sunny beaches of Cancun or staying with dear Grandmum Agnes in Canmore – many of us are spending a few days, if not weeks away from our usual households for the winter holidays. Of course prior to leaving for such trip, you ensure that your travel insurance papers are in order, someone is dog sitting your furry friend, and your friendly neighbor is collecting your mail. With all of these endeavors, one hopes that they have not forgotten anything, maybe a toothbrush at worst.

However, many of us may have forgotten or entirely be unaware what travelling during the winter holidays may mean to our existing home insurance policies – and its warranties. Or more specifically when coverage is available and when it is not.

Winter holidays usually refers to the chilly Canadian winters that we all either love or dread. As such, many industries including the insurance industry refer to this as the “heating season”. This term is referenced in almost all standard homeowner’s insurance policies when referring to a potential water damage peril. Pipes and plumbing bursting in the “usual heating season” (also known as a typical Canadian winter), is not unknown.

According to a March 2014 Media Release (http://www.avivacanada.com/article/media-release-march-25-2014 ) by one of Canada’s largest homeowner insurers: Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, water damage claims (including all insured types) accounted for 51% of all property losses for the insurers’ previous claims year.

As such, water damage arising from freezing of pipes and plumbing during the “usual heating” system is viewed as preventable. Though there is coverage for this peril in most comprehensive homeowner policies – it is strictly outlined in almost all polices under its Insuring Agreements to limit the coverage in this typical wording:

Water Damage…

but we (insurance company) do not insure loss or damage:I. caused by freezing during the usual heating season:

  1. Within a heated portion of your dwelling if you (the insured) have been away from your premises for more than __ consecutive days, but you will still be insured if you had taken either of the following precautions:
    • had your dwelling protected by a monitored heating alarm that is connected to a station providing 24-hour service to ensure that heating is being maintained,
    • arranged for a competent person to enter your dwelling every ___ day while you were away to ensure that heating was being maintained, or,
    • shut off the water supply and had drained all the pipes and domestic water containers;
  2. within an unheated portion of your dwelling;

All insurance companies describe many items in the policies they provide to you, their insured. The first few pages are what are referred to as the “declarations page” – this is what most people are familiar with. It describes the policy holder’s name, address, building limits and various of other coverage’s and limits as discussed between you and your broker/agent. The rest of the policy (usually a few dozen of pages worth) the Insuring Agreements and Statutory Conditions. These Insuring Agreements discuss insured objects, perils, and exclusions— including when a peril is or is not covered and under which circumstances (such as described above).

Many policies list four(4) consecutive days away from the premises, but some may be as few as 2. Another point of discussion is that should one be away for this given length of time, most policies require a “competent person” to enter and ensure the dwelling is being adequately heated or not damaged every day – whereas some may allow every two or three days.

It’s important to observe and review all portions of a policy, but when one is leaving the household during the “usual heating season” as many of us do for the Winter Holidays – it is critical to review this portion of the policy to ensure that oneself, as the insured, takes full precaution and actions to ensure the policy’s water damage coverages are not negated while one is away for the winter holidays.

So what does this mean for you?

First, as a policyholder, if any of the above information is unclear or unfamiliar, track down your broker or agent to help clarify and understand this vital coverage and any limitations under your homeowner’s policy prior to leaving for the winter holidays.

Next, take these precautions during time away from the home to help avoid some stress and preventable water damage claim situation due to the freezing, and other potential claims.

Bon voyage & happy holidays!

Blog Author: Samantha Millar, CAIB, ACS | Marketing Broker | Rogers Insurance Ltd.

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