Property Insurance Claims
How to make a claim.
After you suffer a loss please contact our office as soon as possible during normal business hours, or if it is an emergency contact your insurer directly using their 24 hour claims line. To assist, please have your policy number and details of what has happened.
Our brokers will review the loss with you and discuss coverage implications if any. If appropriate the claim will be forwarded to your insurer. Within 24 hours your insurer will assign an Adjuster who will contact you by phone and discuss the claim and any steps you need to take. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as the adjuster is there to help you through the claims process. In some cases the adjuster will come out to visit you.The insurers will try to settle your claim as quickly as possible. Naturally there are some claims that cannot be settled straight away, particularly those involving injury claims or complex issues. To check on the progress of your claim contact your insurer directly. We are always on hand to assist if a dispute arises between you and your insurer.
Protect your property from further damage or loss. Secure your property, by temporarily boarding windows and tacking down loose roof shingles. If possible, dry carpets and personal property, to prevent any further damage. If you don't take preventative measures, and additional damage results, they may not be covered.
Keep a record of repair costs and retain receipts for any expenditures. If the loss involves theft or vandalism, notify the police immediately. Take photos of any damaged property to show your insurer.
You may be asked for proof of ownership which could include receipts, credit card statements, owners handbooks, inventory or photos. Ask your adjuster what is acceptable.
Your insurer will discuss whether you need to obtain replacement quotes for your property. Often insurers can obtain quotes through national suppliers with whom they have agreements with.
If you are being sued and are served with legal papers please contact our office immediately. There are certain time constraints related to legal papers and your insurer will need to act immediately on your behalf. Do not admit fault to anyone, either verbally or in writing. Talk to your insurer first.
I've received a letter making a claim against me for an injury/loss. What should I do?
DON'T reply to any correspondence from anyone making a claim against you. Pass the letters directly to your insurers and a formal reply will be sent on your behalf .
Should I report an accident even if a claim hasn't been made yet?
You should report to your insurers any event that could result in a claim. This will give them an opportunity to gather and examine evidence before it is lost or memories fade.
Is there anything I can do to help speed up the claims process?
An adjuster will contact you as soon as possible, but priority will be given to the most severe losses. Larger claims may be settled in stages, not all at once. While you wait for the adjuster to contact you, you should:
- Get estimates. Get at least two but preferably three repair estimates for the adjuster to review.
- Take photos. Photos of the damaged property and any pictures showing the property before the loss can be very helpful.
- Research replacement Costs. List all damaged property, including each item's description, age, original cost, place of purchase, and estimated replacement cost. Include any receipts or canceled cheques for these items.
Power was out for a few days and the food in my refrigerator and freezer were spoiled. Is there replacement cost coverage?
Most residential policies have a "power failure" exclusion and don't cover food spoilage that may result. If you live in an area that has frequent storms and power outages, your best bet is to keep several large coolers in storage, ready for use.
My stereo and computer equipment were damaged by a power surge. Is that covered?
Probably not. Most homeowners policies provide coverage under "sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current." But coverage doesn't apply to loss of transistors, computer chips and similar items. Damage from a power surge wouldn't be covered for your computer, TV or stereo. If a surge is caused by lightning however, these items may be covered.
If trees on my property are blown down am I covered?
Many homeowners policies don't provide coverage for damage to trees caused by wind. If a tree falls and damages insured property, such as a house or a fence, the resulting damage is almost always covered.
Tree roots have blocked my drain am I covered?
Many homeowners with older homes run into problems with roots blocking their drains on the outside of their house. Roots are lazy, but opportunistic. They don’t break into pipes that are sound, but do exploit cracks, holes or weaknesses. Many old sewer pipes are terra cotta, the same material as flower pots. Over time they develop cracks and roots will exploit those causing the pipe to become blocked. This is considered deterioration and is not covered by most insurance policies.
Although the pipe itself may not be covered resulting damage caused by any backup of the waste water may be covered. Check your policy wording.
What's the difference between actual cash value and replacement-cost coverage?
If the policy indicates that settlement will be on a replacement-cost basis, then payment will be made for the actual cost, at today's prices to repair or replace the item of like kind and quality, subject to the limits of the policy. If the adjustment basis is actual cash value, settlement will be made by determining the replacement cost at today's prices, less a reasonable amount for depreciation, age, or obsolescence. Some policies provide coverage for the home on a "guaranteed replacement cost" basis, in which case the carrier pays whatever it costs to repair or rebuild the home, regardless of policy limits.
Additional Living Expenses
Most homeowners policies provide coverage for living expenses if you can't stay in your home. Most policies will reimburse you for "reasonable expenses" over and above your normal living costs (such as lodging, for example, since it's over and above your mortgage or rent payment) if your home is uninhabitable as a result of a covered peril and you must temporarily relocate. Note however that most policies will only reimburse you for food expenses over and above what you would normally pay.
You must keep all receipts in order for the expenses to be considered part of the loss. The expenses must be in line with normal living costs and must be a necessary and direct result of the loss. Policies typically limit recovery under "additional living expenses" to a percentage of the amount of coverage on the home itself.
What to do in the event of a fire.
- To put out a small fire, take away its air or fuel, or cool it with water or use a fire extinguisher. A fire blanket can also be used.
- Never use water on an electrical fire. Use only a fire extinguisher.
- Oil and grease fires occur primarily in the kitchen. Smother the flames with baking soda or salt or put a lid over the flame if it is burning in a pan.
- Small fires can be controlled with water or fire extinguishers, but do not try to put out a fire, which is getting out of control.
- If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll until the fire is extinguished. Running only makes the fire burn faster.
- Contact the fire department as soon as possible.
- Sleep with your door closed. If you wake up to the sound of a smoke detector, feel the door before you open it. If the door is cool leave immediately. Be prepared to bend low or crawl, smoke and heat rise, and the air is cooler near the floor.
- When a door is hot, (suggesting the room temperature behind the door is excessive) escape through a window. If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-coloured sheet outside the window to alert fire fighters of your presence.
What to do after a fire
Contact us or your insurance company in order to start a claim.
Do not enter a fire-damaged building unless authorities have given you permission to do so.
- When entering a building, be watchful for signs of heat or smoke because they may be signs of smouldering remains.
- Have an electrician check your household wiring before the current is turned back on. Do not attempt to reconnect any utilities yourself.
- Discard food, beverages and medicines that have been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
- If you have a safe or strong box, do not try to open it. A safe or fireproof box can hold intense heat for several hours. If the door is opened before the box is cooled, the entering air combined with the high internal temperature may cause the contents to burst into flames.
Structural safety issues
Beware of structural damage. Roofs and floors may be weakened and need repair – seek professional advice.
When necessary – in the case of damaged windows or doors for example – you should, where possible, have emergency repairs carried out immediately to prevent possible further damage to your property.
Although rare in Ontario they do happen.
- Floods can kill. Don't try to walk or drive through floodwater - six inches of fast flowing water can knock you over and two feet of water will float your car. Manhole covers may have come off and there may be other hazards you can't see.
- Never try to swim through fast flowing water - you may get swept away or be struck by an object in the water.
- Don't walk on riverbanks or cross over bridges if possible - they may collapse in extreme situations or you may be swept off by large waves.
- Avoid contact with floodwater - it may be contaminated with sewage.
How to prepare for electrical safety in a flood
- Have available waterproof boots or waders, boots or shoes with hard soles, a dry wooden stick to flip circuit breakers or fuses, and rubber gloves.
- Make sure your electric circuit breakers or fuses are clearly marked for each area of your home.
- Turn off electricity at the main breaker box or fuse box, only if you don’t have to step in water or stand on a wet floor or wet carpet to do so. If you have to step in water to get to the circuit or fuse box, call an electrician; do not try to turn the power off yourself. Turn off your main breaker, then flip each circuit breaker to off. Or pull out your main fuse, then take out each circuit fuse. Use a dry stick to open panel doors and throw switches whenever possible.
- Unplug small appliances, but never unplug or disconnect an electrical appliance if you have to stand in water, or on a damp floor to do so.
- If there is no water where your large appliances are located, unplug appliances such as washers and dryers and move them to higher ground. Or, put them on blocks, making sure they won’t vibrate off the blocks when used.
Electrical safety during a flood
- Don’t go into a basement or any room, if water covers electrical cables that are plugged in or if water covers the electrical outlets.
- Stay out of a basement or any room, if you hear buzzing, snapping, crackling or popping noises or see sparks. Stay out of water that may have electricity in it.
- Keep children away from indoor and outdoor electrical appliances and electrical equipment in flooded areas.
- Call the local hydro authority immediately if you see any broken power lines.
After a flood
- Watch for live electrical wires that may have broken off outside. Report them.
- Before entering a home or basement that has been flooded, make sure the electrical system has been turned off. If it has not been turned off, contact a qualified electrician to shut off the power.
- Do not turn on any lights or appliances until an electrician has checked your system.
- ONLY IF YOUR POWER IS TURNED OFF: when the water recedes, take covers off outlets and unplug appliances and let them dry out for several days. Clean outlets and switches.
- If your home has been flooded, when water recedes, all boxes, switches, outlets, etc., must be dried, cleaned and tested by a qualified electrician. Only then can power be turned back on, circuit by circuit.
- Open doors and windows to ventilate the house, but take care to ensure your house and valuables are secure.
- Look for hazards, including loose wires, broken gas lines or submerged electrical appliances.
- Contact your gas, electricity and water company. Have your power supplies checked before you turn them back on to make sure they have dried out. Wash taps and run them for a few minutes before use.
- Don't attempt to dry out photos or papers - place them in a plastic bag, and if possible store them in the fridge.
- Service septic tanks as soon as possible.
- Boil all drinking water or use bottled water.
- Throw away food or medicines, which may have been in contact with floodwater - it could be contaminated. Contact your local Health Department for advice.
- Make a note of any damaged property or possessions. Do not dispose of any items without the prior approval of your insurance adjuster.
- Don't think it can't happen again. Restock your supplies.
Frozen pipes and water tanks
Frozen pipes are the most common emergency in freezing weather. It's important to thaw out pipes while your present as a pipe may rupture. A frozen pipe doesn't leak, so you'll only discover the damage after the ice melts, and a ruptured pipe can cause a great deal of damage. Here's a guide on what to do if you suspect your pipes are frozen:
- Turn off the water at the main stop cock (stop valve): this is normally found near where the water pipe enters the building, often under the kitchen sink or in the basement. Do this even if you only suspect your pipes are frozen, since they could also have burst and, by turning off the water, you will reduce the amount of water that can escape and so minimize damage to your home.
- Examine the water system for fractures in pipes and fittings for any sign of pipes being pulled from joints. Ice on the outside of a pipe is often an indication that it has burst.
- Before you start to thaw the system, do what you can to protect or remove anything that might be damaged by thawing water running from the burst. Cover electrical junction boxes and wiring.
- Switch off the central heating and any other water heating installations at the same time, to avoid further damage.
- Begin thawing the pipe from the tap side of the frozen area, by warming it gently and work back towards the main valve or water tank.
- Thaw the pipe using a hairdryer or hot water bottle - DO NOT USE A BLOW LAMP OR HEAT GUN. Cloths soaked in hot water can also be placed on the pipe. Start at an open end and work back from it. Heat the dwelling generally with appliances not connected with domestic hot water or water-based central heating.
- Open all your taps to drain the system.
- If water is coming through the ceiling, collect it in buckets. If the ceiling starts to bulge, pierce the plaster with a broom handle to let the water through.
- Turn off the water at the main stop valve.
- If your wiring or any electrical appliances have been affected, do not touch them until they have been checked by a professional electrician. If in doubt, turn off your electricity at the mains.
- If the flow of water cannot be stopped, open all the cold taps to drain the system.
- If the burst is on a pipe from the storage tank, turn off the stop valve in the storage tank, turn on all hot taps to drain the system, allow the fire to burn out or turn the heating off until the burst pipe has been attended to by a plumber
No water at your Taps
- Do not switch on or light any water heating appliances whether fuelled by gas, oil, solid fuel or electricity.
- Examine the water system for fractures in pipes and fittings also for any sign of pipes being pulled from joints. The presence of ice on the outside of a pipe is often an indication that it has burst. If you notice any of these symptoms TURN OFF THE CONTROLLING STOP VALVE and call a plumber.
- If no damage is visible open all taps and thaw out pipes with an electric fan heater or hairdryer. Start at an open end and work back from it. Cloths soaked in hot water can also be placed on the pipe. Heat the dwelling generally with appliances not connected with domestic hot water or water-based central heating. If the house has to be left unattended, shut off the main stop valve and drain down whatever can be drained.
- Leave windows, doors and built-in cupboards open during the day, if possible.
- Keep affected rooms heated, but do not over-heat them, as this could result in further damage.
- Store damaged items in a dry place - the insurance adjuster may want to inspect them.
- Winter storms followed by relatively mild temperatures cause freeze-thaw cycles that can create leaks in roofs. Such weather conditions can cause a build-up of water-either from snow or ice dams formed on the roof or in gutters and downspouts. This water backs up under the roof tiles or eventually seeps through, causing leaks. Although roofs with a shallow pitch are more susceptible to this phenomenon than are steeply pitched roofs, no conventional home is completely immune to the problem. Remove ice blockades from gutters and downspouts, and attempt to remove built-up ice and snow from the lower portions of the roof.
- A 1- to 3-foot high sandbag dike offers protection from shallow flooding caused by melting snow.
- Do not use salt to melt snow or ice from roof. Salt will rust nails, damage gutters and downspouts, and harm garden plants.
- After the storm passes assess for damage both inside and outside your home paying particular attention to your roof and any items attached to it such as aerials satellite dishes and chimney stacks.
- Do not allow children or pets out to play until the examination of your property is completed. Stay clear of damaged power lines and please report them to the your local electricity supplier as soon as possible.
- Avoid damaged buildings and trees as they may collapse.
- Do not attempt any emergency repairs unless it safe to do so.
- Stay clear of flooded streams as their banks may have been weaken by the storm.
- If you have any damage contact our office or your insurer directly.
After A Burglary
- Try not to touch or move anything as by doing so you may inadvertently destroy evidence.
- Call the police. They will let you know if they will come to the scene to conduct an investigation.
- If the police arrive at the scene they will record all details, including a list of items stolen.
- They will also provide you with a reference number from the crime report. You will need to give this to your insurer.
- List any stolen property while you are waiting for the Police to arrive. It is important to include serial numbers and other features, which might assist both officers and yourself in identifying your goods. If your bank or credit cards have been stolen, you should inform the issuers as soon as possible. The card numbers and the telephone number to use can be found on previous statements.
- Inform your insurance company / insurance broker. It is important to let your insurers know if you are having trouble in listing your stolen property.
- Burglaries are traumatic experiences resulting in a sense of violation and concerns for personal safety. Try to put the experience behind you. Remember that the burglar attacked your home for what was inside it, not because you live there. By using the experience positively and following the advice given below, you can help reduce the possibility of it happening again.
Making Your Property Burglar Proof
If you have not already invested in home security act now… your burglar knows your property now and may return. It is wrong to believe that if a burglar wants to get into your home he will find a way. By improving security, a substantial number of burglaries can be prevented or made more difficult for the offender. As a householder, you can do a great deal to reduce the risk for a small outlay. Improving home security might also help to reduce insurance premiums for household contents protection, so speak to your broker or insurance company.
If property has been stolen or maliciously damaged or if you lose a valuable item, you should inform the Police as soon as possible.