Generally, most home owners have purchased home owners insurance. But, many often don’t read the fine print and rely on their insurance brokers to ensure that they have the proper coverage.

The Supreme Court of Canada defined the duty of insurance brokers in 1977 in Fine’s Flowers Ltd. v General Accident Assurance Co. of Canada. According to the Court, an insurance broker must exercise a reasonable degree of skill and care to obtain policies in the terms requested by the customer, service those policies as circumstances might require, and advise the customer if they are unable to obtain the policies requested so that the customer may take such further steps to protect himself/herself. Specifically, where the customer adequately describes their insurance needs to the broker, then the onus is on the broker to review the insurance needs of the customer and provide the full coverage requested. In that instance, should an uninsured loss occur, the broker will be liable unless he/she has pointed out the gaps in coverage to the customer and advised the customer on how to protect against those gaps.

But, this does not mean that the broker has an obligation to review each and every exclusion clause with the homeowner. It’s imperative that the home owner determine their own insurance needs and review the exclusion clauses within their home owners’ insurance policy to ensure that they take the steps necessary to prevent that exclusion. For example, many home owners’ insurance policies exclude any loss or damage caused by freezing during the usual heating season within a heated portion of the home if the home owner (and their family) has been away from their home for more than 4 consecutive days. The home owner can, however, negate this exclusion if, for example, they arranged for a competent person to enter their home each day that they were away to ensure that the heating was being maintained. Alternatively, the exclusion can be negated if the heating and plumbing systems are connected to a monitoring alarm station providing 24-hour service or if the water supply is shut off and all the pipes and domestic water containers are drained.

Additionally, home owners’ insurance policies sometimes exclude any loss or damage that occurs after the home has, to the insured’s knowledge, been vacant for more than 30 consecutive days. The definition of “vacant” will vary depending on the applicable policy.

These type of exclusions are not only important for those that relocate south during the winter months, but those that travel for a few weeks’ vacation, or perhaps even for a long weekend.

The specific exclusions and ways to negate the exclusions vary based on the insurance policy and the insurer, so it is very important to read your specific policy and see what applies to you and your home. Your insurance broker need only point out the gaps in your home insurance if you specifically advise of the broker of your insurance needs. Saying that you want “full coverage” will not necessary suffice.

Victoria Boddy is an Associate with the law firm of Howard Yegendorf & Associates.  Victoria can be reached at 613-237-5000 ext. 240 or vboddy@yegendorf.com. For more information about Victoria, please visit www.yegendorf.com.

Disclaimer and Cautionary Note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice or establish a lawyer-client relationship with the authors or BrazeauSeller.LLP. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained from a qualified lawyer.