Your questions answered about severe weather coverage
If your home and car has been damaged by severe weather once it is safe to do so contact your insurer. They will answer questions about your policy and help you with your claim. In the meantime, the Insurance Bureau of Canada has compiled a list of some of the most asked questions about insurance following severe weather events.
Q. My food in the fridge has spoiled because I have no power. Will I be reimbursed?
A. Your freezer and its contents may be covered for damage related to food spoilage caused by an accidental power interruption. Typically, in this situation, your freezer and its contents are insured for a specific amount. Some may cover the contents of your refrigerator as well as your freezer. Check your policy. Before disposing of the food from your freezer, make a list and take photos of the contents for insurance purposes. If you suspect your freezer is contaminated by food spoilage or other damage, speak to your insurer before discarding the appliance.
Q. If my tree fell on my neighbour’s home, am I responsible for paying their deductible?
A. No. Just because you own a tree, you are not responsible for any damage caused by that tree during a major wind event. In this case, the tree owner didn’t do anything wrong; wind caused the tree to break. For a tree owner to be liable for damages, they would have to be negligent. For example, if the owner had ignored the tree was rotten for some time and that it could have fallen on your home.
Q. My landlord’s tree fell on the front lawn of the home I’m renting. Who pays for the cleanup?
A. A tenant’s insurance policy covers the tenant’s property, such as their personal possessions inside the home. If the tree landed on the house, then the landlord’s insurance policy would cover the tree removal from the structure and repairs to the house. If the tree did not damage any insured property, the landlord would be responsible for the clean-up costs.
Q. My belongings were damaged. Is my landlord responsible for cleaning, fixing, or replacing them?
A. Tenants are usually responsible for their belongings. If you have tenant’s insurance, your insurer will cover any loss or damage to your personal property. Read your policy closely to see what kind of damage is covered and call your insurer with any questions.
Q. I forgot to renew my insurance policy last year and it lapsed. What are my options?
A. Insurance policies commonly provide coverage for a one-year term. If you forgot to renew, your insurer can’t pay for any damages that occurred after the policy lapsed since you didn’t have a valid policy in force. Provincial governments and non-governmental organizations, such as the Canadian Red Cross and other community groups commonly provide some financial assistance to residents after a disaster. Check local media coverage for more information about assistance that might be available.
Q. I’ve heard that my claim will be denied if I don’t file right away. Is this true?
A. No. Most homeowner’s policies have a two-year time limit to settle a claim. The main reason for getting the claims process started right away is so you can get reimbursed and complete repairs sooner. IBC suggests reporting damages to your insurer as soon as you are able, so you can start the repair process. Remember you are responsible for taking steps necessary to limit further damage. If you can’t do this yourself, contact your insurer immediately.
Q. My friend told me I should inflate my claim but that doesn’t feel right. What should I do?
A. Inflating or falsifying an insurance claim is a crime and can jeopardize your coverage. Insurers will pay you for damage according to the terms, conditions, limits, and deductible outlined in your policy. You will be assigned an adjuster who will review the details of your loss and explain the claims process. Providing false information could result in serious consequences.
Q. Do I have to use the contractor my insurance company recommended?
A. Many insurers have established relationships with qualified remediation contractors and can vouch for their reliability and the quality of their work. Some insurers also guarantee the work of the service providers they recommend. However, you are not obligated to use the insurers’ recommended contractor. Start by asking your service provider for an estimate. Then, before getting the work done or signing a contract, speak with your adjuster to find out how much of the service provider’s estimate your insurer will pay.
Q. Will insurers be able to get building supplies and contractors quickly?
A. The insurance industry has no control over the availability of labour or materials and supplies. The sooner you start your claim, the sooner repairs can be completed. Speak with your adjuster to get a clear sense of a realistic timeline for repairs to be completed.
Q. Will my rates for my policy go up because of a severe weather event?
A. The insurance industry is well capitalized for severe weather events. This is what the industry prepares you for. Your rate is calculated based on a variety of variables including the type of policy, deductible, replacement cost of your home, predicted costs of future claims, and past claims history as well as many other risk factors unique to your property.
Q. How long do I have to complete repairs?
A. Most insurance policies have a two-year time limit to report the claim. It is important to start work as soon as possible to ensure that delays don’t cause additional damage.