It came upon us quickly, and lingered on long enough to change our lives indefinitely. Now a new (old?) normal is on the horizon, and that can mean changes that affect your insurance policies. Whether for your car, your home or your cottage, it’s important to make sure these policies are up to date while ensuring your premiums remain as low as possible.
It seems a long time ago in a world far, far away that normalcy reigned supreme. Much has happened since the start of the Pandemic that has changed our lives forever, but with vaccines rolling out at a faster pace, the end of this nightmare is in sight. As this new normal opens up before us, there is much to consider, not the least of which being the status of your insurance policies.
Car insurance: Are my premiums going to rise post-Covid?
The main thing you can do that will affect your car insurance premiums is ask yourself if your driving habits have changed. Many people who found themselves working from home during the Pandemic lowered their premiums dramatically by removing all but basic coverage on cars they weren’t driving, or saved themselves a few bucks simply by letting their insurance company know they were driving less.
- If you removed essential coverages like Accident Benefits and Third Party Liability because you weren’t driving at all, then you’ll have to add those back before you start driving again, or you’re driving without insurance.
- If you told your insurance company you were only driving say 1,000 km a year, you should let your broker or insurance company know your new estimated annual driving distance and commuting distance.
Obviously the first point is much more urgent than the second, but regardless, if you don’t update your file with current information, it could cause you problems the next time you have a claim. Important: Insurance companies will not be making any changes to policies without a notification from you that your pre-Covid driving habits have resumed. So if you are still working from home even as Covid restrictions are relaxed, there is no need to contact your insurer.
What if I used my car to provide delivery services during the pandemic?
One popular way to earn a few extra bucks during the lockdowns was to work for various delivery and ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. If you did, it was necessary to share this information with your insurance company in order to avoid a claim denial or mid-term cancellation of your policy.
- Whether you are ending your work with delivery and ride sharing companies or continuing as a side hustle post-Covid, be sure to contact your insurance provider to let them know of any changes.
Home insurance: Does the return to normal affect my policy?
The past year has seen fundamental shifts in the way we live and work, increasing the amount of time we spend in our homes. While this may not have affected your home insurance significantly, there are some things to keep in mind as the Pandemic ends, and we all venture out into the wider world again.
- If you made changes to your home insurance policy at the start of the Pandemic in order to cover any extra equipment and/or increased deliveries related to your job, and you are now returning to the office, let your insurer know.
One of the big things that will affect home insurance premiums as the Pandemic comes to an end is something we can all think about on an individual level, and that has to do with the amount of time we will NOT be in our homes. The more we leave our homes empty as we go back to work and finally take that long awaited vacation down south, the more attractive it is to thieves.
- If you will be spending more and more time away from home, take this opportunity to upgrade your locks and security system, create a hiding place for any important or valuable objects, and remind yourself to keep your neighbours informed of your schedule.
One final thing to think about regarding your home is any renovations or improvements you might have made during the pandemic. Many people used the extra time being at home to upgrade their home, either by adding a new family room or finishing the basement. If you made such a material upgrade, notify your insurer.
- If you made any significant improvements to your home during the pandemic, make sure the increased value of your home is reflected in your policy. Yes, your premiums will rise a little, but you will be covered for that higher value should your home be damaged.
I’m still not comfortable sending my children to school. Does my policy continue to cover learning pods?
Many parents have sought alternative education solutions for their children during the pandemic, including what are known as learning pods, where a small group of students study online together in a single home. Keeping your children and relatives at home for the sake of their health, and sharing parental duties and online learning with neighbours does not impact your policy. However, your home insurance policy does NOT allow for commercial, or paid, childcare. And that includes daycare. Nor does it allow for situations where teachers or tutors are hired to operate in the home. In these circumstances, it is necessary to purchase commercial or specialty insurance.
- Learning pods will continue to be covered by your home insurance policy, as long as they are not commercial in nature.
Will going back to work and travelling once again affect my home insurance premiums?
There have been many reports during the pandemic of an increase in fire-related fatalities in Ontario, with cooking left unattended being cited as the leading cause of residential fires. It seems the more we were locked down at home, the more cooking we were doing and the more accidents we were causing. This had many worried that premiums were going to rise as a result of the increased time we were spending at home. Trends show premiums are going up, but this isn’t the reason.
- The increased risks of being at home are basically offset by the many risks of not being at home, such as theft and flooding etc. So the amount of time you spend in your home has only a small impact on your premium.
The biggest reason premiums are going up is the same reason they were going up before the pandemic – the environment. Or more specifically, the extreme weather the environment is creating. Flooding, it turns out, is the new fire.
- So the best way to keep your future home insurance rates down is to take this opportunity to ready yourself and your home for the extreme weather that is certain to come your way, no matter where you live:
- Check your roof and repair damaged shingles
- Seal any gaps in the foundation, windows, or walls
- Trim the trees standing close to the house
- Get yourself a sump pump
- If you are renewing your policy, or you have been shopping around for better rates, make sure the insurance company hasn’t removed water damage from your policy. What you save now might end up being a fraction of what you pay out later on if you aren’t adequately covered.
What about my cottage insurance?
The summer of 2020 was a complicated one for the cottage crowd. Lockdowns and travel restrictions, not to mention the unwelcoming attitude of those who live year round in cottage country, kept many away from their little home in the woods last year. But the end of the Pandemic will mean many of us will be returning to the lakes, and so it’s important to make sure your cottage insurance is up to date and fully covers you like before. While most cottage owners kept their policy going during this time, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- If you reduced coverage on any recreational vehicles after putting your boat, jet skis, off road vehicles, RTV and/or trailer in storage, remember to contact your insurer to increase it again.
- If you paused coverage on any policy rider that allows you to rent your cottage while you aren’t using it, and you plan to rent it out once again, remember to re-activate it.
The end of the Pandemic means the beginning of a sense of normality in our lives for the first time in what seems like years. It may seem ages ago that you altered your insurance policies to save a little cash as uncertainty came knocking at the door. But as the world opens up to us once again, take a few moments to make sure your insurance is up to date and broad enough to let you enjoy it without worry. Contact Mitch today to make sure you’re ready for the new normal!