13 ways you might be invalidating your home insurance

12 minute read Published on Jun 16, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

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Finding home insurance in Ontario, or any province for that matter, is no easy feat. Thankfully, BrokerLink has a team of licenced brokers for home insurance that can help. Our team of property insurance experts can not only help you find the right coverage for your property, we can also inform you about the various ways that you might be invalidating your home insurance policy. Keep reading to learn more and avoid these common mistakes.

13 reasons your home insurance policy may be voided

No matter what type of home insurance policy you have, whether it be a vacation property & cottage insurance policy or a condo insurance policy, there are several ways that you can invalidate it. After all, no insurance policy covers everything, and home insurance is no exception. Ultimately, you will need to review the terms and conditions of your specific property insurance policy carefully to determine exactly what circumstances will invalidate. In the meantime, the BrokerLink team has put together a list of common ways that customers may invalidate their home insurance policies - whether accidentally or not:

Starting a business out of your home

Operating a business out of your home is one of the most common ways that a policyholder may invalidate their home insurance policy. Why is this the case? Most home insurance policies in Ontario cover personal use of your home only. This means that if a loss or damage occurs due to business use, you may not be covered. Examples of a loss or damage relating to business use include a customer or client visiting your home, slipping and falling on an icy walkway, and suing you. Another example is if business stock or inventory was stored in your home and a burglar robbed you, stealing your inventory. In either of these scenarios, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy would not cover you. Even a high value home insurance policy wouldn’t cover you. Instead, you would need to purchase a home business insurance rider or endorsement and add it to your existing home insurance policy.

Alternatively, you may also be able to purchase a separate commercial insurance policy. Please note that home business insurance isn’t just suited to policyholders who run home-based businesses. It is also useful for employees who spend a lot of time working from home, especially if you have customers visiting your home or have expensive business equipment in your home. Consult with a BrokerLink insurance provider to learn more about the circumstances under which you should add a business rider to your home insurance policy.

Lying about your home’s unique features or characteristics

Telling the truth is crucial when purchasing insurance. Lying or misrepresenting yourself or your home is a quick way to have your home insurance policy invalidated. One of the most important things you should always tell the truth about are the features of your home. The insurance company must be aware of the condition and any unique characteristics of your home so that they can properly assess your risk as a policyholder. Lying about such characteristics can lead to a future insurance claim being denied, or in a worst-case scenario, your insurer cancelling your policy. Whether you are applying for basic home insurance, tenant and renters insurance, or another type of property insurance, make sure that you are honest about the following features of your home: the heating system, plumbing system, electrical system, roof and siding, construction type, and the presence of liabilities like swimming pools, wood-burning fireplace, trampoline, etc. If your home has historical value, you should also inform your insurance provider.

Lying about the value of the personal belongings inside your home

Similar to how lying about the features of your home can invalidate your property insurance policy, so too can lying about the value of the personal belongings inside your home. When purchasing home insurance, you will need to provide a realistic valuation of the contents of your home. Providing as accurate a valuation as possible is critical, if your insurance company believes that you assigned a misleading or inflated value to your belongings, they could refuse your claim or cancel your policy. For tips on how to properly assess the worth of the belongings inside your home, contact BrokerLink. We can give you a rundown of the best strategies to evaluate value and provide a list of the most common household items you will need to consider, like appliances, electronics, jewellery, furniture, clothing, decor, and more.

Conducting criminal activities in your home

Just as committing an illegal act while driving can invalidate your car insurance policy, conducting illegal or criminal activities in your home can also invalidate your home insurance policy. Speaking of car insurance, if you are interested in bundling home and auto policies, contact BrokerLink today.

In fact, it will likely state this clearly in your policy. Many policies have specific exclusions for criminal or illegal activities, meaning that you won’t be covered if a damage or loss occurs due to your criminal actions. Even if a loss hasn’t occurred, your insurance provider is within their rights to cancel your policy if they discover that you are involved in criminal activity in your home. Examples of criminal or illegal activities relating to your home may include:

  • Growing, manufacturing, processing, storing, distributing, or possessing an illegal drug, narcotic, substance, or other item.
  • Altering or renovating your home to facilitate the growth, manufacturing, processing, storage, possession, or distribution of an illegal drug, narcotic, substance, or other item.
  • Intentionally harming or causing damage to another person, their personal property, or your own belongings.

Failing to notify your insurer about major changes to your home or situation

If you do not inform your insurance provider about major changes to your home or situation, your policy could be invalidated. For example, if your home is left vacant or you decide to renovate your property such as by adding solar panels, rent out a room or part of your home, list your home on a home sharing platform like Airbnb or VRBO, install a pool or trampoline in your backyard, or purchase several high-value items, your insurance provider could cancel your policy or deny a future claim. Failing to inform your insurer about changes can result in denied claims and a voided policy. While there are coverages you can purchase to protect yourself in some of the circumstances above, if you fail to inform your insurer about these changes so they can update your policy and adjust your premium accordingly, they could invalidate your policy. Thus, it is important to contact your insurance company or your insurance broker in Ontario as soon as your situation changes.

You rent out a room in your home or part of your property

If you own a home, you might think that your insurance policy will cover you no matter who stays in your home, but this isn’t always the case. If you decide to rent out a room in your home, your entire home, or a separate dwelling on your property, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will not cover you. Homeowners with tenants require separate policies or riders if they want to be covered in the event of a loss or damage relating to a paying guest or tenant. Rented rooms increase your risk as a policyholder, so if you decide to rent out part of your policy or engage in home sharing via a platform like Airbnb or VRBO, make sure to notify your insurance provider and update your coverage.

You make changes to the security system in your home

When you purchase home insurance, your provider will likely ask you about any and all security measures in your home. This may include locks, burglar alarm systems, cameras, and more. Your premium is dependent on the security features you describe. Thus, if these features change in any way, your premium could be affected. Therefore, if you make any changes to the security system in your home - even minor ones like getting a new front door or changing the locks - your policy could be affected. That is why you must notify your insurer. The good news is that any upgrades to your security system, such as replacing a basic local alarm with a monitored alarm system, could lead to cheaper home insurance rates.

Overvaluing your personal belongings

One of the most important decisions you will make as a home insurance policyholder is deciding on your coverage limits. Most home insurance policies feature content(s) coverage, which is the type of coverage that protects your personal belongings inside the home. Contents coverage can pay to replace or repair any personal items in your home that are damaged or lost due to an insured peril, such as fire or theft. The limit you choose for this type of home insurance coverage should reflect the value of your belongings. However, the reality is that many homeowners overvalue their belongings and end up choosing a higher coverage limit, which they will pay more for. That is why BrokerLink’s home insurance experts recommend taking the time to calculate the actual value of the items inside your home before finalizing your home insurance policy.

Leaving your property empty or vacant

Leaving your home empty or vacant for long periods of time (typically 30 consecutive days or more) is yet another way to invalidate your home insurance policy. Leaving for a short family vacation will likely not affect your rates or the validity of your policy. However, if your home is left vacant for more than 30 days in a row, and a loss or damage occurs during this time, your insurance provider could reject your claim or cancel your policy. Be sure to notify your insurance company before going away on an extended vacation and adopt various home safety practices, like having a neighbour or friend check on your property every 72 hours while you are gone..

Renovating your home

Renovating your home, whether you are updating your kitchen or adding an extension onto it, can be cause for a voided policy if you fail to notify your insurer. Since renovations can significantly alter your home, not to mention put your home at an increased risk of damage, basic home insurance won’t cover them. For this reason, it is important to notify your insurer before you begin making any renovations. This will give you a chance to purchase renovation coverage, should a loss occur during the renovation process. It will also ensure your policy remains valid once the renovation is complete, as your insurer can evaluate your property and adjust your premium based on the renovations done and the new value of your home.

Posting photos from your vacation online

This one might be a hard pill to swallow, but the reality is that posting photos from a vacation online, such as on social media, can lead to an invalidated home insurance policy. Nowadays, many home insurance policies stipulate that policyholders must take “due care” to protect their property. Openly advertising to the public that you are away from your home and your home is empty does not fall into the category of “due care.” Thus, experts recommend waiting until you are home to upload any photos from your vacation, otherwise any losses or damage that occur while you are away could lead to a denied claim.

Installing a doggy door in your home

One final reason that your house insurance policy could be invalidated is if you install a doggy door on your property. You might think that this is no big deal, but from an insurance company’s perspective, doggy doors increase your risk as a homeowner. The small door could make it easier for burglars to enter your home, increasing the odds of theft and a subsequent home insurance claim. Before taking the steps to install a doggy door on your property, speak with an insurance broker at BrokerLink to learn more about how this could affect your insurance premium.

Failing to maintain your property

As a homeowner, maintaining your property is your responsibility. So if you neglect your property, allowing it to fall into a state of disrepair, and a loss or damage occurs, your home insurance company can cancel your policy or at the very least, deny your claim. For example, if you failed to clean your gutters for an entire year and this led to water damage in your walls, your insurance provider would likely not cover the cost of repairs.

6 things you can do to avoid invalidating your home insurance

Want tips to help you avoid the harsh reality of an invalidated home insurance policy? Keep reading!

Maintain your property year-round

Year-round property maintenance is important if you want to avoid a cancelled home insurance policy. Home maintenance can be done on your own or you can hire someone to do it for you. Examples of basic home maintenance include cleaning the gutters, cleaning your dryer vent, having your chimney and HVAC units inspected annually, and adopting basic fire safety practices, such as regularly testing your smoke detectors and replacing the batteries as needed.

Lock all windows and doors before leaving your home

Closing and locking all windows and doors before you leave the house is another thing you can do to avoid invalidating your home insurance plan. Please note that leaving a spare key near the front door - even if it’s hidden under a pot or door mat - can also lead to an invalidated policy, so be sure to take basic safety precautions to make it as difficult as possible for someone to enter your home.

Change your locks if you lose your house keys

If your house keys end up going missing, do the responsible thing and have the locks on your home changed. While this can be costly, it is worthwhile, especially if you have no idea where or who your keys may have ended up with. If you don’t change the locks immediately and a burglar ends up breaking into your home without any signs of forced entry, your claim could be denied.

Activate your security system before you leave the house

If your home is equipped with a burglar alarm system, make sure that you activate it every time you leave the house. Failing to activate your alarm can lead to a denied home insurance claim.

Abstain from using faulty appliances

Even if your home insurance policy features equipment breakdown coverage, you never want to use a home appliance that you know to be faulty. If you do so and the appliance ends up causing damage to your home, your insurance provider may not cover you. For example, if you were aware of a recall for a certain appliance in your home, such as a dishwasher, and you chose to use it anyway, which led to a fire, your provider will likely deny your claim. Thus, if you know an appliance in your home is on the verge of breaking down, take the steps to get it repaired as quickly as possible, and do not use it again until it is fixed.

Be honest and upfront with your insurance provider

Finally, we always recommend being honest and upfront with your insurance provider. Do not exaggerate any insurance claims, such as by telling your provider that a certain item was worth more than it actually was. This would be an example of insurance fraud, which can have serious consequences, including a cancelled home insurance policy and even legal action. Any form of fraud, lying, or misrepresentation can lead to an automatic policy invalidation. So instead, speak openly and honestly with your insurance provider at all times.

Reach out to BrokerLink to learn more about home insurance invalidation

Still have questions about the different ways that you can invalidate a home insurance policy in Canada? Get in touch with BrokerLink to learn more. Our team of home insurance specialists would be happy to describe the various exclusions that your home insurance policy may include. One of our brokers can even review your existing policy to provide more specific insight into the circumstances under which your insurance provider could cancel your policy. In addition, we can also help you find home insurance coverage, save money on property insurance by giving tips on things like home insurance tax deductibles, and explain complex industry jargon like premiums and deductibles. Get in touch with BrokerLink today to get started. You can also request a free home insurance quote using our online quote tool right now.

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