Attention snowbirds – don’t forget about insurance

Sep 30, 2014 2 minute read

As Canadian geese fly south when temperatures start to dip, so do millions of Canadian ‘snowbirds’ or seasonal travellers who call warm destinations their home away from home. Most snowbirds pack up before Thanksgiving and spend anywhere from one to six months in a sunny destination before returning to Canada in the spring.

Before you fly south for the winter, consider how to protect your home and the impact on your insurance.

Frozen and broken pipes are major causes of home damage and insurance claims during the winter. Experts recommend setting your thermostat at 55 degrees Fahrenheit (or 14 degrees Celsius), or shutting off the main water valve and draining all the pipes in your house.

Many homeowners’ policies will only cover damage caused by freezing if certain conditions are met:

  • Arranging for a competent person to enter your home every 24 hours while you are away to ensure heating is being maintained and the property is checked on.
  • Shutting off the water supply and draining all the pipes and domestic water containers; or,
  • Having the plumbing and heating system connected to a monitored alarm station providing 24 hour service.

It’s important to have someone you trust (a friend, family member or neighbour) checking on your property regularly. Make sure both of you share current contact information in case of an emergency. Also, since many cities have mandatory snow clearing policies, arrange to have someone shovel your walkways and driveway so they are safe for others and you won’t be fined.

A few other important considerations to avoid crime or damage to your property while away:

  • Connect at least two lights to an automatic timer.
  • Keep up appearances: Ask neighbours to set out some of their trash in front of your house on collection days, park in your driveway occasionally, and mow your lawn when the snow melts.
  • Cancel or redirect newspaper and magazine delivery.
  • Direct your local post office to forward your mail. Remember, important tax documents and financial statements often carry “do not forward” instructions, so make arrangements with your financial institutions to send these notices to wherever you are staying this winter.

Besides your home, you also need to consider your car insurance. If you are parking your vehicle while away for the winter, you should still keep it insured.  You may be able to remove liability and collision coverage if your vehicle will be parked privately and no one has access to drive it. In this case, your coverage would be fire and theft only.  Note, if your vehicle is leased or financed, there may be conditions that require full coverage on the vehicle year round. Best to check with your financing on the conditions first before changing your insurance.

While you make your plans to escape winter, it’s a good idea to check in with your BrokerLink broker and understand the limitations of your insurance. We’ll help you stay protected no matter where you are so you can enjoy your time chasing the sun.

Be sure to check out more tips on preventing water damage during the winter.