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Can an old appliance impact my home insurance coverage?

June 20, 2022
5 mins
woman repairing sink appliance

The household appliances we use daily, though generally built to last, can eventually wear down and require repair or replacement. And the older a fixture is, typically the more prone to malfunctions and damage it can be. While damage caused by some appliances may be covered, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the coverage conditions within your home insurance policy.

If, for example, your 15-year-old refrigerator is well past due for a new water line or needs complete replacing, could its age impact your claim eligibility if it were to leak and cause damage to your home? Regardless, it’s a good idea to inspect your appliances and be aware of their lifespan. Keeping on top of timely maintenance can prolong an appliance’s shelf life and help you avoid costly repairs and claims that can increase your home insurance premium upon renewal.

Does my home insurance provider monitor the lifespans of my appliances?

When it comes to everyday appliances, production dates aren’t necessarily top of mind for your home insurance provider.

“Appliances such as fridges, stoves, dishwashers, dryers, etc. are not monitored by us in terms of their age,” says Sonja Denobrega, vice president of personal insurance and underwriting policy at Aviva Canada.

However, depending on how you heat your home, your insurance provider may track the longevity of your heat source.

“We do monitor replacement of oil tanks and in some provinces, hot water tanks,” says Denobrega.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), an oil tank spill or leak can cost between $250,000 and $500,000 or more to clean up. And most home insurance policies won’t cover damage to your property after an unintentional spill. Your policy may, however, cover the liability you become subject to if a spill reaches a neighbour’s property — up to your coverage limit. That’s why it’s important to conduct proper maintenance of an oil tank year round.

Can outdated appliances be cause for a denied home insurance claim?

Fortunately, as long as the damage in question is accidental and caused by an insured peril, the age of the appliance that caused it isn’t a factor in your claim eligibility, unless otherwise stated.

“In order to exclude coverage for an appliance that has passed its life expectancy date, the insurance company would have to have a specific exclusion in the wording stating this,” says Jessica Spina, spokesperson for Desjardins General Insurance Group.

For example, if water suddenly escapes from an old indoor plumbing unit or water supply line and there were no gradual signs of damage prior to the incident, your policy may offer coverage.

“Regardless of the life expectancy date, if an appliance breaks and causes damage insured by the policy, [the insurance company] could not state that the insured intentionally caused the damage,” says Spina. “We cannot deny a claim only because the life expectancy of the appliance is reached.”

Keep in mind, however, that neglecting to conduct obvious maintenance could result in you being denied coverage.

When should I upgrade my home appliances?

Though the life expectancy of your appliances may not be exact, it’s still possible to have a ballpark idea of when to consider a replacement. “Life expectancies for appliances vary from one appliance to the next,” says Spina. “It would be dependent upon the manufacturer and the make and model.”

Checking the lifespan assigned to your brand of appliance can provide an accurate measure of its reliability and durability.

However, average lifespans for common household appliances can range as follows:

  • Refrigerator: 10 to 20 years. Clean the condenser coils on the upper back of the fridge to maintain efficiency and prevent a breakdown.
  • Toilet: Up to 50 years (depending on the material). Avoid cleaning products that can damage parts and cause leakage, and don’t flush anything but toilet paper to keep pipes clear.
  • Washer and dryer: 10 to 14 years. Replace rubber or vinyl hoses with steel or metal ones, clean the dryer ducts and lint tray, and consider a drip pan beneath the washer.
  • Heating and cooling system: 15 to 25 years. Check for coolant leaks and keep internal vents clean to prolong lifespan.
  • Dishwasher: Approximately 10 years. Check gasket for cracks and damage and replace it if necessary.

Ultimately, the lifespan of an appliance may not impact the validity of a home insurance claim, but the cause of the damage can. Ensuring proper function of your appliances and conducting necessary repairs proactively can help you avoid having your claim denied.

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Michelle Bates

Michelle Bates is an editor and writer at RATESDOTCA. She has just over four years of content writing experience and got her start writing for small GTA businesses in 2017. A few years later, she began freelance writing, fact-checking, and interviewing sources for Cottage Life magazine and CottageLife.com.

She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from Queen's University in English Literature and Sociology along with a Publishing - Book, Magazine and Electronic graduate certificate from Centennial College. Michelle is now a financial writer and specializes in personal finance content, including mortgages, home, auto, and travel insurance, and credit cards. Her work has been covered by notable Canadian news sources like Daily Hive, Toronto Sun, CTV News, and Narcity.

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