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Vacant property alert
Published Tuesday, May 3, 2011 5:38PM MDT
When you go out of town do you have someone check on your house while you are away? Consumer Specialist Lea Williams-Doherty has tips to ensure your insured.
When the Thomson family did not receive the help they needed from their insurance company, they turned to Lea Williams-Doherty for help.
Melinda Thomson moved from her Rockyford home into her parents' basement in Calgary last fall.
She made the change so her special needs son could get the kind of schooling that her Rockyford community could not provide.
Thomson assumed that as long as she kept paying her home insurance premiums, and either she, or her realtor neighbour, checked on her house every other day, everything was fine.
However, when a water pipe burst and flooded her home, everything was not fine.
TD insurance denied Thomson's claim because her home was vacant when the damage occurred.
"I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do," Thomson said. "I paid my bill every month, why aren't they helping me when I need the help?"
Now, because she can't afford to repair the damage, Thomson stopped making mortgage payments and is facing foreclosure.
TD declined to comment on Thomson's case citing privacy concerns.
They did, however, point out that the policy says if a home is vacant, defined as unoccupied for 30 days or more, TD is no longer obliged to pay for any insured losses.
Mark Klein of the Insurance Bureau of Canada says that this ‘no coverage if home is vacant for 30 days' rule is typical on all home policies.
The IBC says that if you need to leave your home vacant, ask your insurance company for something called a ‘Vacancy Clause Rider'.
"Normally insurers will charge an additional monthly premium for this based on various factors including the value of the property, the length of time it would be vacant, who is checking on the home, how often, and the reason for the vacancy," Klein says.
It is also important to clarify what kinds of losses, such as fire or water damage, will be covered by the vacancy clause rider.
According to the TD Policy, water damage caused by breakage due to freezing of the plumbing system located within a heated building will not be covered if you have been away from your home for more than seven consecutive days unless you either:
- Arrange to have someone enter your home every seven days to ensure that heating is being maintained
- Shut off the water
- Connect your water and heating system to a monitored alarm system
According to the IBC, a four day time limit is more typical, and they say that you should have someone check on your house every day you are away, especially in the winter.