By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Snowbirds could return home to damage and no insurance if they do not read the fine print in their policies. Many policies require travellers to make sure someone checks regularly on their home while they are away.
“It is in the wordings of a lot of insurance companies,” said Erik Soderstrom, an account executive with JDR Insurance. “It’s during the winter months, when you are worried about pipes freezing, that a lot of insurance companies require a competent person … to come through every four days.”
Sanderstrom said the number of days between visits and whether or not a visit is needed varies company to company. In some policies that timeline could be as short as every 24 hours. The onus is on the policy holder to be aware of any requirements when they leave the home unoccupied. “It’s very important for an individual to look through the policy wordings, phone their broker or their insurance agent because some companies don’t have the requirement; other companies do,” Sanderstrom said.
The insurance professional said policies that require an inspection will exclude all water damage if visits are not conducted in accordance with the policy. Sanderstrom said policy holders need not worry about coverage in the event of fire and the like. The visitation requirement is specifically related to freezing and water damage.
“It’s not uncommon for thermostats to fail – for furnaces to fail,” he said, adding many digital thermostats won’t kick in if the battery dies. “When it’s minus 20 outside it doesn’t take very long for things to get cold.”
Sanderstrom said it is important for people to have their homes checked outside the winter months as well. “It’s not just an issue over the winter months,” he said. “Over the summer, your house being unoccupied leaves you open to theft, burglary, vandalism. Even if it’s not in your policy wordings, it’s just a smart idea to have someone either staying there or checking up on it everyday. If there is a claim – that does hurt your insurance premiums.
New business can help
One local business offers snowbirds an opportunity to make sure they are covered with their insurance companies. Koloa’s Pet and House Sitting will monitor your home while you are away, filling those insurance policy requirements that could leave homeowners in a bind when they return from holiday.
Koloa’s owner, Bonnie Moerike, said her business began several years ago after requests to look after people’s pets, people who did not want to send their animals to a kennel. A couple years ago, the service extended to feeding fish and checking on people’s property for them.
Moerike said she offers her home checking service mainly in Morinville but is not adverse to taking on clients in St. Albert or Sturgeon County.
Koloa’s Pet & House Sitting can be reached at 780-939-2661. JDR Insurance can be reached at 780-939-6638.