- Not all damages from unexpected weather events are automatically covered by a standard home insurance policy.
- Flooding is the greatest threat to Canadian homeowners and it is the costliest natural disaster annually.
- Be prepared for the unexpected by maintaining an emergency survival kit.
If you think the weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable, you may be right.
In 2020, severe weather caused $2.4 billion in damages in Canada, making it the fourth-highest loss year on record since 1983. Several weather events contributed to that astronomical total, notably the Calgary hailstorm ($1.3 billion in insured damages) last June and the Fort McMurray flood ($562 million in insured damages) in late April of 2020.
That puts the onus on homeowners to do as much as they can to safeguard their dwellings and properties from storms and ensuring your home insurance policy coverage is adequate to protect your digs if the worst unfolds.
Understand what's covered by your home insurance policy
Insurance is there to protect you from the unexpected, but not all damages from unexpected weather events are automatically covered. A home policy typically pays for damages related to fire, wind, ice and hail, but not earthquakes, landslides, or floods.
As with any insurance policy you have, knowing the details of your home policy is vital. That includes what the coverage limits are. There are four components to a standard home insurance policy:
- Property coverage. Protects the actual structure of the home from perils such as damages caused by fire and burglary. Coverage is based on the replacement value of your home, not the market value.
- The contents in your home. Protects your personal property when it's at home and when you carry it with you, such as a laptop you bring to and from school, the bicycle you ride to work with, and the camera you bring on vacation, subject to limits.
- Personal liability. Protects you (as well as your spouse and children) in the event someone is injured on your property, or your property causes them damages, and you are sued.
- Additional living expenses. Covers you in the event you are temporarily displaced from your home due to a claim.
Even when something is covered, there may be exceptions depending on the factors that lead to the damage. For example, if the wind blew shingles off your roof, but you were due to replace them anyway, your insurer probably won't pay for it because a home policy doesn't cover maintenance.
Wind damage, such as from a tornado, is covered so long as it affects the outside of the building. Damage to internal contents of a home doesn't fall under the wind damage provisions unless the wind smashes windows or rips a hole in the outside structure.
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Consider upping your protection with optional coverages
While extreme winds or tornadoes can and do happen, it is flooding that is the greatest threat to Canadian homeowners, and it is the costliest natural disaster annually.
However, flood insurance is not automatically included in a standard home policy. That’s why you should consider adding optional coverages including overland flooding and sewer backup protection to your policy.
Home insurance does provide coverage for water damage inside your home when, for example, a pipe bursts or the dishwasher in your kitchen malfunctions unexpectedly and floods the floor. But if a major storm triggers a flood in your community that washes over your property and floods the basement, or the municipal sewer backs up and spews out a mess inside your house, you will be on your own to pay for those damages without overland flood and sewer backup protections.
Be prepared for an emergency
An emergency can be defined as a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or a community. A natural disaster such as a flood, wildfire, or severe windstorm certainly falls into that category. Prepare for the unexpected by maintaining an emergency survival kit for your home.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada offers these tips for protecting your family and home from the effects of a severe weather event:
- Create an emergency preparedness plan for your family.
- Secure barbecues and secure or store patio furniture indoors when severe weather is in the forecast.
- Park your vehicle in a covered area to prevent damage.
- Stay away from windows, doors, and skylights during a storm.
- Ensure there is proper grading around your home.
- Update your home inventory and have someone check your property if you are away.
- Install a sump pump, sewer backup or backflow valve.
- Consider using resilient building materials when completing repairs.
- Know your risks and review your insurance policy with an experienced insurance representative.
Getting the right insurance coverage for your property
Ensuring you have adequate coverage for your dwelling and property means taking the time to think about what you need your home insurance policy to protect. Think about any detached structures on your land such as a shed. Or if you have a heritage home or vacation property, talk to your insurer about making sure it too is covered.
In a time when the weather appears to be changing and storms becoming more severe, it’s prudent to protect your greatest asset – your home – with the right policy.