91% of Canadians are unaware of a home insurance condition that can result in claim denial

Surprisingly, 91 per cent of the 1,200 people surveyed were not aware of this condition

Square One recently conducted a survey to determine awareness levels of a common home insurance condition that, if not met, eliminates coverage for damage from frozen pipes. The condition requires homeowners, who are away for more than a few days, take the following steps:

1. Turn off water at the home’s main source and drain all pipes; or,

2. Arrange for someone to enter the home daily and ensure heat is maintained.

Surprisingly, 91 per cent of the 1,200 people surveyed were not aware of this condition. “With the cold temperatures we experience across Canada, it’s important the insurance industry takes steps to educate homeowners of this condition,” states Jason Vander Zalm, vice president at Square One.

If temperatures in a home drop low enough, water in pipes can freeze. As the water freezes into ice, it expands and causes the pipes to rupture. As the ice melts, significant water damage can occur. Obviously, the situation worsens if the homeowner is away when the pipes freeze so it’s understandable that insurance providers have imposed certain conditions on homeowners.

“As our survey found, most people simply don’t know about this common home insurance condition,” says Vander Zalm. “Even if you do, it’s critical that you review your own policy because the condition varies from one provider to the next. For example, some policies require you take steps if away for more than four days while others provide seven days. And, complying with the condition might be harder than you expect.”

Earlier this year, an Ontario couple discovered their home in shambles when they returned from a winter vacation in Florida. They had turned off their water before departing, but they did not shut off the water to the fire sprinkler system as the building code requires it remain operative. Unfortunately, the pipes leading to the fire sprinkler heads froze and burst, causing extensive water damage throughout the home. Their insurance provider denied the claim, stating that water to all pipes needed to be shut off and drained while the homeowners were away.

In another case, a woman was in hospital undergoing cancer treatment. She had been away from home for three weeks, when her furnace went out. The pipes froze and burst, again causing significant water damage throughout the home. While away, the homeowner arranged for a neighbour to keep an eye on her home. The neighbour picked up mail, but did not enter the home to ensure heat was maintained. Unfortunately, insurance coverage was denied because policy conditions were not met.

The good news is that some insurance providers are updating the condition to allow for fire sprinkler systems to remain functional and for exceptions to be made in medical emergencies. So before you leave your home for more than a few days this winter, speak with your insurance provider.

For more home insurance tips, visit www.squareoneinsurance.ca.