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Winter Vacation and Your Home Insurance

Ensure your home is covered while you’re away on winter vacation.

Many Canadians enjoy escaping our cold winters to enjoy warmer weather elsewhere. While they’re away, they trust that their property insurance will cover any unfortunate incident that may happen. However, many homeowners aren’t aware that there are things they must do to ensure their property insurance remains in full effect. We will answer your questions about this topic and explain your responsibilities as a homeowner or renter to protect your home when you’re away.

Why do insurance companies care if you’re on vacation?

Insurance companies require homeowners to take some protective measures while they’re on vacation to ensure damage doesn’t go undetected. An empty home is more likely to have damage go unnoticed and to be the target of a crime like theft or vandalism. This can often result in additional damage and more costly repairs.

What do you have to do to ensure your home is covered while you’re away?

Most property insurance companies require a competent adult to check in on your home every 24 to 72 hours; some may relax this requirement if you shut off your home’s water supply.

As the rules vary by insurer, it’s important to know what yours requires. Speak to your broker if you’re not sure and they can tell you what your specific insurance company requires. You should also review your coverage limits to ensure your policy adequately covers potential winter-related risks or if there are any specific exclusions related to winter damage (such as snow, ice or freezing temperatures).

The person checking on your home should do the following:

  • Walk around the exterior of your home and property and check for any damage.
  • Inspect the interior of your home to ensure there’s no damage – don’t forget to check the basement!
  • Look for signs of leaks or water damage around faucets, toilets and in the basement.
  • Ensure all doors and windows are secured.
  • Ensure the heating system is working properly and keeping the home adequately warm.
  • Record the date and time of their visit and take photos and notes of any problems.
  • If there is any damage, they should let you know immediately.

If you’re going away during the winter, remember to inform your insurance broker or insurer directly so they can offer guidance tailored to your policy and circumstances.

If you have cameras or a home monitoring system – do you still need someone to check on your home?

Yes – while cameras and home monitoring systems are a great way to keep an eye on your home, they cannot see everything and don’t replace a person checking your property.

What other measures can you take to protect your home while you’re away?

Fortunately, there’s lots you can do to protect your home while you’re enjoying a winter vacation:

  • Have mail held or arrange for a friend or neighbour to pick it up once it’s delivered.
  • Unplug your appliances and other electronics to mitigate sudden malfunctions that could cause damage (I.e. water leakage, fire).
  • Ensure all doors, windows and gates are closed and locked before leaving.
  • Don’t post on social media about your vacation, especially if your accounts are public. If people know you’re away, your home may be a target of thieves.
  • If you have a smart home, you can turn lights on and off to make it look like the home is occupied (or just leave a few lights on while you’re away).
  • Install security measures like motion-activated lighting, cameras, and alarms.
  • Install water mitigation measures like a sewer backup valve, sump pump and water alarm.
  • Turn off the water supply in your home and drain the pipes.
  • If you decide to leave the water on, ensure your home is adequately heated so your pipes won’t freeze while you’re away.
  • Ensure your smoke alarms and other fire suppression equipment are in working order.
  • Arrange for a an individual or company to regularly clear the snow from your walkways and driveway.

If you have a claim while you’re on vacation

Hopefully, your home will be just fine while you’re away. If the worst does happen, it’s important to get a claim started as soon as possible. You can call our emergency claims number at 1.866.212.3239 or submit a claim to your insurer directly; you’ll also receive advice on the next steps.

Document the damage as thoroughly as possible, including taking pictures and video. You should also record the details surrounding the event such as the date, time, and a description of what happened. You may have to rely on someone else to gather these details if you’re not at home.

If you’ve done what was required as part of the contract with your insurer, they should cover you for damage caused by an insured peril. Exactly what is and isn’t covered will depend on your individual property insurance policy.

If you haven’t done what was laid out in the agreement (such as had someone check on your home), you may have limitations on your coverage or no coverage at all. That’s why it’s important to understand what you need to do when you’re away from home.

If you have any questions, reach out to your broker to discuss.