The Wright Sisters Group | Union Realty Brokerage Inc. - The Beaches, Leslieville, Riverdale and East York Real Estate Specialists – Your East End Toronto Real Estate Team
15 September 2016

Don’t let your house insurance take a holiday when you’re not home!


Under most insurance policies, if your house is unoccupied for more than four consecutive days during the winter season, your insurance will not cover water damage from the freezing of any part of a plumbing, heating, or air conditioning system, or an appliance such as a washing machine or dishwasher.  Typically, an insured homeowner will not be able to make a successful claim for this type of damage unless arrangements were made for a competent person to visit the house daily to make sure the heat is maintained. 

Investors be aware! Same goes for those tenanted properties, if you have a tenanted property and your tenants go on holidays and the pipes burst chances are the homeowner will not be covered.

Your two options are to have a competent person visit the house daily or to shut off the water supply and drain all pipes and appliances.

Don’t be fooled into thinking your insurance policy considers a ’vacant’ home the same as an ‘unoccupied’ home.  “Unoccupied” means the residents plan to return to it, therefore the house continues to be insured while they are away – even if it is longer than 30 days.

The definition of a vacant home is a house that is going to be empty for an extended period of time while it is awaiting renovations, for example, or if it is for sale and the owners have moved out already.

In this case, the Insurance Bureau of Canada advises that if your house is vacant for more than 30 consecutive days, all insurance coverage on it stops.  A house is considered to be vacant if all occupants have moved out with no intention of returning, and no new occupant has taken up residence.  But there is a solution. You can ask your insurer for a “Vacancy Permit”. A Vacancy Permit will maintain most of the coverage you had on your house, but will likely not protect against vandalism or malicious acts, water damage, or glass breakage.

Better to be safe than sorry, if you are winter vacationers notify your insurance company that you will be away and that you have made arrangements for your home to be regularly checked on and/or that you have turned off the water.  If you have tenants educate them on this as well, make sure they notify you if they are heading out of town longer than 4 consecutive days. When it comes to your home being vacant for longer than 30 days please take the time to speak to your insurance agent on what your options are.

Here are some other tips to monitor your home when you are not there. Certain thermostats like the Nest system also allow you to access the temperature level in your home remotely and you can set an alarm to go off if it dips below a certain temperature.  When it comes to burst pipes and/or water leaks you can also have water sensors added in certain locations such as under your sinks and appliances (dishwasher, washing machine) as an added precaution.  If water is detected in these areas the sensors will alert you through your home alarm system. All these added gadgets may possibly save you money on your home insurance. If you have any of these systems in place, make sure to let your insurance agent know and ask if you are entitled to a discount.