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Insurance for homes with character

Character homes often stand out, offering charm and appeal. Wrap-around porches, high ceilings and cherry wood floors add to their uniqueness and artistic flair. However, due to the age of these homes, their insurance needs are also unique. 

When it comes to character homes, there are two types: registered heritage homes and non-registered old homes. The Standards and Guidelines for the Conversation of Historic Places in Canada define heritage value as “the aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual importance or significance for past, present, or future generations.” Information on buildings designated as registered heritage homes can be obtained from the standards and guidelines document.

Under regulations set by the organization, the appearance of homes that have been designated as registered heritage homes must be preserved as close as possible to their original state. This means that as the owner you are not allowed to do any renovations that significantly alter the original appearance of the building. For example, you are prohibited from updating your heritage home’s aluminium siding with vinyl siding, or asphalt shingles with clay tiles.

However, you are allowed to renovate interior aspects of your heritage home to comply with the National Building Code of Canada. In fact, if you do not take steps to do this, you will find it challenging to obtain insurance for your home as many times only specialty markets will take on the risks associated with older homes that have not been updated to meet today’s building code standards. The Insurance Bureau of Canada also provides information regarding heritage homes (select your province when you go to the Insurance Bureau of Canada website).

When it comes to insuring a home that is being updated to meet the National Building Code of Canada, the same principles apply to both registered heritage homes and non-registered old homes. During the renovation process, your home insurance policy will likely consist of limited coverage with high deductibles, due to the risks involved with insuring a home below code.

Many of these risks present serious safety hazards. For example, galvanized iron pipes, which are often found in the plumbing systems of older homes, corrode over time and can release lead into a home’s water system. Knob and tube wiring is another common safety threat, as this type of wiring presents major fire hazards. Outdated furnaces and heating systems are also considered potential fire hazards and should be addressed when renovating a home.

As aspects of your home start to meet National Building Code of Canada standards, you should keep your broker updated so that your home insurance policy can be gradually adjusted throughout the renovation stages. Once your renovations are complete, your insurance coverage will likely have increased and your deductibles lowered.

Whether you own a registered heritage home or a non-registered old home, we recommend documenting all renovations. This includes keeping all receipts for service if you hire contractors, or receipts for materials for renovations you choose to complete yourself. We also encourage you to take before and after photos. Your insurer may request to see evidence at any time, so it is a good idea to maintain up-to-date records and keep back-up copies of these records at another location such as a safety deposit box, in the event your home is destroyed.

Once your character home is updated to meet building standards, you can sit back and enjoy the charm and appeal that attracted you to your new (or old) home. Contact your BrokerLink broker for more information on home insurance and how to protect your character home.

2 Comments

  1. Eliza Cranston

    Thank you for the information on insurance for unique homes! I have a non-registered old home and wasn’t sure if it needed special insurance. Maybe I’ll try to meet the code to become a heritage house. Do you know what the requirements are for this? And would my insurance rates go up or down?