Home Insurance Follow Up

I wrote about Home Insurance Gotchas, and in it, I outlined how you need to tell your Insurer (for your home) about anomalies in your coverage like expensive jewelry, art or changes to your home. For long time readers you will also remember I have written (or paraphrased from Tom Clancy) if it is not written down, how do you know it happened? Let me take these two articles together to make a point when dealing with insurers, if you don’t write it down, and they don’t acknowledge your statement, you may not be covered.

Home Insurance

Home Insurance are you really covered ?

This advice is simply, better safe than sorry, in terms of thematic premises. As an example, if you have a comic book collection that you think is worth $4500 in terms of replacement cost, you should:

  1. Get an estimate done by an authoritative appraiser, about the real value of the set.
  2. Call your insurer, and fax them the appraised value
  3. Wait for whether they will insure this and whether they will charge you a higher premium for this privilege
  4. Pay whatever extra premiums are needed, and get an updated policy from your insurer, which mentions your comics and their current value
  5. Any time you feel your collection has increased in value, contact your insurer and start at step (1) again
  6. If you sell your collection, contact your insurer to have it removed from your policy.

If you miss any of these steps (maybe not step (6)), you may not be insured or covered they way you think you are.

Before I get my insurance friends slamming me about how I am being anti-Insurance (which at times I have been) this is more a Caveat Emptor statement. If you want the insurance business to work for you, you must abide by their rules (unfortunately).

Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Home Insurance Gotchas

A CBC story of a local woman, who was in Ottawa for Cancer treatment and got a rude surprise from her home insurance policy (when she got home), highlights the importance of reading your entire insurance policy and understanding all of the “ins and outs” of your policy.

The lady was in Ottawa for cancer treatment, and left a neighbour to check her mail, but the neighbour never went into the house. Since the poor woman was undergoing cancer treatment, she was away from her home for more than three days, and unfortunately her furnace “scrammed” (i.e. turned off, to protect itself), the house froze, the pipes exploded and her insurance company is now saying, she is not covered. Sounds awful doesn’t it, but the same thing is true of your home policy as well, go read it and you will see that if you are away from your home for a period of 2 days or more (especially in the winter) if no one checks your house, any damage done to your home is your own responsibility.

Home Insurance

Home Insurance is Important, but if it doesn’t pay out, that is a bad thing

The CBC was also kind enough to post a good article 6 Big Home insurance Misconceptions, that is well worth reading, but I will paraphrase some of the areas they cover in their article.

  • Rare or exceptional things in your house are covered under your insurance. No, unless you have told your insurance company about art, jewelry, or other cool things, your fancy things may not be covered under your home insurance policy. If you tell them, they will most likely raise your rates, but at least you will be covered.
  • Sewer backups, floods, earthquakes and maybe even forest fires are covered. Maybe, but you had better see that they are explicitly mentioned in your policy (yes read your entire policy). If they are not mentioned, ask your insurance provider the exact question, to ensure you are in fact covered, or you may get a rude surprise. Basement sewer backups were covered, but not necessarily any more. Will the city pay? If they think it is their fault, maybe.
  • If you are not taking care of your house, and that neglect causes damage to your house (and it can be proven), you might end up paying for the damage yourself. Keep your property well maintained.
  • Did you upgrade your house? Did you finish the basement, and did you tell your insurer it is now “finished”? If you added a room, is your insurer aware of it? If the answer is “no”, do you think they will pay out? They might, but it is better to be clear with your insurer, than hope they do something out of the goodness of their hearts™.

Also remember with home insurance, 3 Strikes and You are Out, so careful what you make a claim on (as well). Check with your insurer, and read your policy closely.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Home Insurance: Three Strikes and You Are Out

I had a great time at CPFC15 this past weekend, where a bunch of Personal Finance folk got together to discuss things and two of the speakers touched on points that resonated with me:

  • Rob Carrick from the Globe stated that the Insurance Industry needs to be put under higher scrutiny for some of their practices.
  • Ellen Roseman mentioned about the folks that have contacted her about having their home insurance cancelled (for many reasons)

With these two points in mind I will share with you an upsetting story that happened to my mother, with her home insurance.

Home Insurance

Home Insurance are you really covered ? For How Long ?

My parents have lived at the same address for more than 50 years, and they dutifully paid their home insurance premiums. There were a few small incidents in the house, but never any major claims until about 7 years ago. The water tank in the basement gave up the ghost in a spectacular way, and flooded the basement causing damage to the finished basement (dry wall, carpeting and clean up), so my parents made a claim due to this incident.

About a week after the “new” tank was put in, something went wrong with it, and it dumped its contents as well, so my Mother called the insurance company about that, and it was cleaned up as well.

The last straw (for the insurance companies) happened on my birthday about 2 years ago, when the oil tank in the basement leaked. Luckily the entire contents did not dump out but it was a significant spill which caused a very large claim to clean all of it up.

Thanks to this, the next year the Home Insurance on my mother’s house came up, she was told she was “uninsurable” due to these 3 incidents (uninsurable by any main stream insurance company, as we found out after calling a few). This is someone who had paid their insurance rates, and had been a model customer, but thanks to these 3 incidents (which in my opinion is really only 2 incidents, as the second water tank giving way was a function of the first tank failure, but we were told that is not the case in the insurance industry), she was going to have to use “off market” home insurers.

In this world you can insure anything, and you can find folks who will insure anything, however, they do not do it for cheap. For the next 4 more years (at least) my Mother must use these “alternate insurers” to insure her home.

I tell this as a cautionary tale, be aware that your Home Insurance can be cancelled for many reasons and the “Three Strikes” rule is one of the ways this can happen.

Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


More Invasion of Privacy (for Reward Points)

Our friends at LSM Insurance pointed this one out already, but I figure I can “pile on” the subject, after I have already ranted about Car Insurance “Saving” Devices, I will allow myself another rant about how the words discretion and privacy are mostly dead in today’s society (and we are giving it away for alleged discounts and convenience).


This is my FitBit™

The topic (in question) is a new “Rewards” system that John Hancock Insurance (evidently a subsidiary of ManuLife) is offering a new rewards system for new Life Insurance policy holders ( A Vitality Rewards Program ), and with this new system you get a FitBit™. I have written about wanting a Financial FitBit™, but this Life Insurance idea is so ingenious (in a Dr. Evil kind of way) I am in awe.

The Financial Post has a wonderful article Ready to have a hissy Fit(bit) over health and reward points, but allow me to add in my 2 cents worth into this argument, the invasion of privacy that the company is perpetrating on their policy owners (with their permission) is a new level of “Data Incursions”.

The owners of the policies will get discounts, and bonuses for living a “healthy lifestyle” as monitored by their new FitBit™, which sounds wonderful (OK, it made flashing red lights go off in my head as soon as I read about it, but that is my paranoid view of life), but how is healthy being determined, and who legislates what is healthy behavior?

I use my fit bit to attempt to monitor my activity and to attempt to get back into shape (after along myself “go” a little), so here are a few things that I have figured out:

  • The heart monitoring on my FitBit™ Charge HR while useful is inaccurate (and I am fairly certain that FitBit™ says that somewhere in their marketing literature). I try to exercise on a stationary bike many times a week, and most times, while the heart monitor on the bike says my heart is pumping at 133 bpm, the FitBit™ says I am only at 85 bpm, but if I move it, suddenly it will jump to 105 bpm. My opinion is neither is that accurate, but it is interesting that the heart monitoring is a bit flakey.
  • The FitBit™ Charge HR will monitor your sleep, and it says my sleep patterns are lousy (my wife already told me this, so this is not news to me).
  • I walked down a country road a few weeks ago, and it counted my steps nicely, but because the road had a camber, and I kept moving from the hard to soft shoulders, it assumed I had gone up 24 flights of stairs?

These observations are not me complaining about the FitBit™, far from it. I think that it is an amazing data capture device, however, it is still early on with this technology, and I would assume later generations of the product will be even more accurate, and there lies the rub, this is incredibly important personal information about you. You will have a day by day view of your health, or at least parts of your health, but should you give that information away ?

Does John Hancock hand out FitBit™ Charge HRs? Don’t know, but from my point of view it really doesn’t matter, the data collected by them even from a simple FitBit™ is invasive, and will only continue to grow. When I got my FitBit™, I wondered whether (or when) FitBit™ would start selling the data they are collecting, evidently someone else thought of it first?

All of this to get a cheaper insurance rate? I think the price you are paying is too steep.

Oh and I did notice that the Apple Watch also Monitors  Heartbeats too? More helpful data collection about your every day living.

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Car Insurance Saving Devices

The Car Insurance industry has tripped across a brilliant piece of marketing, that will allow them to track the driving habits of all their customers. These devices hook into your car’s computer system (the diagnostic port, I believe), they most likely have a GPS capability and a cellular interface to send data back to your insurer. The device tracks your driving habits and you can see how well you are doing (on-line), and you get a discount for installing it on your car, which sounds wonderful.

If I put on my aluminum foil hat (i.e. take a paranoid point of view), I find it interesting to hear rights and freedoms lovers (as should we all) complaining about how much information the government collects from them, when folks sign up for these kind of invasive programs without batting an eye.

Allegedly the insurance companies in Canada that have these devices claim that they will not use this data to punish drivers, and that may be the case now, but it won’t remain that way.

Car Tracking Device

A version of one of the devices (from the CBC)

If I was collecting specific data about driving habits, I would start doing some analysis on the number of times drivers:

  • Slam on the brakes (yes, that data is there already, your car already tracks pressure on brake pedal)
  • Breaks speed limits and where (do you do 120 KM/hr on highways or worse 80 km/hr in school zones), if the device has a GPS in it, how hard is it to figure this out?
  • Went to bars and drove afterwards (no that doesn’t prove guilt, but it doesn’t paint a pretty picture either).
  • How well you maintain your car.

Don’t think this can happen? Haven’t you noticed all of this great “directed advertising” Google has been giving you? Data collection about you goes on pretty much all day long, and the folks collecting the data aren’t supposed to use it for nefarious reasons, but what is stopping them?

Yes, I sound like a paranoid privacy lunatic, but in this situation, I don’t believe that these “money-saving devices” are only for “monitoring purposes”. I will pass on them until I am forced to install one (and yes I believe that in the future that might be the case).  I do, however, think it is a brilliant idea for the insurance companies to have a better understanding of their customers’ driving habits.

Is this just me being paranoid?


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