Legal Brief for May, 2017

Homeowner Insurance Issues

With the anniversary this month on May 3rd of the tragic Fort McMurray forest fire, we are mindful once again of the destructive forces that can be unleashed by Mother Nature.  Whether the damages come from fire, flooding, hail, lightening, wind or sundry other causes, there are always many reasons for property owners to be concerned about the safety of their homes and structures.  Such concerns are of course the prime reason why every prudent homeowner will take out a policy of home insurance.  Unfortunately, once the initial policy is arranged for, it becomes very easy to simply let the policy be automatically renewed every year without bothering to actually look into what risks and perils the policy provides coverage for.

Here a few reasons why a homeowner should do an annual review of their policy:

  1. the value of your home and other structures on the property may have increased, either due to market values rising or doing renovations or adding on to the home.  If your policy amounts always stay static at the figures in place when you first arranged for the policy, your home may in fact become underinsured as the years go along.
  2. you may have changed the use of your home.  If for example you have started a home office or business, you may be having people coming to your home to receive services or goods.  What if one of those persons falls on your sidewalk in the winter and sues you for compensation?  Will your policy provide coverage for such a claim?  If you didn't inform your insurance company that you were now operating a business from the home, they may in fact deny coverage, and you will be left with personal liability for the person's injuries.
  3. something in the fine print on your policy may have changed.  We regularly receive a variety of notices from our bank and insurance companies informing us of this or that change to section such and such or clause so and so.  After a while these letters become commonplace and are likely to end up in the wastebasket without actually being reviewed for what they mean.  A homeowner ignores these notices at their peril.  Your insurance company may in fact be giving you notice that something in your coverage has changed.  If you arenít aware of it, you may be in for a rude surprise when disaster strikes.  
  4. perhaps you are paying too much for your insurance?  Given the automatic renewal nature of insurance policies, many people can't be bothered to check the market for quotes to see if other carriers will provide a better rate.  Home insurance is a competitive industry and there are many companies out that would love to have your business.  It doesn't hurt to check the market occasionally to see what else is available and at what cost.

Most homeowners are diligent about keeping to an annual maintenance plan for the physical aspects of their home - having the furnace inspected annually, repairing leaking eavestroughs, replacing the shingles on the roof as required and so on - but many of us are a bit lax in looking after the "soft" infrastructure of our homes.  Keeping an informed eye on your homeowners insurance coverage is an important element of maintaining a home that is truly safe and sound.

Notice To Reader:

Please note that this Legal Brief Of The Month feature is intended to provide general information only, and is not intended to provide specific legal advice for any situation.  You should consult with a lawyer before acting on any matter that you are facing.  Your use of, and access to this website, does not create a lawyer-client relationship with John K.J. Campbell, Barrister & Solicitor.