If you are like thousands of Canadians and escape to the south away from our tough, long winters, there are a number of things to consider about leaving your residence for weeks or months at a time. This can impact your health, home and car insurance. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about your insurance coverage if you’re a Canadian snowbird.
Canadian Snowbirds and Home Insurance Coverage
If you leave your home vacant for more than 30 days, your home insurance will lapse. You may also have limited coverage if no one checks in on your home every 48-72 hours or don’t turn off your home’s water.
But don’t worry, there are thousands of Canadians that snowbird every winter and insurance companies are happy to work with you. Here is what you need to do:
- Contact your home insurance company or home insurance broker and inform them of your snowbird plans. They’ll advise you on what’s required by your particular insurer.
- Arrange to have someone stay or check in on your home every 48-72 hours.
- If someone can’t stay or regularly check your home, you’ll want to do the following:
- Turn off your home’s water and drain all pipes and containers.
- Ensure all windows and doors are closed and secure.
- Hold mail or arrange for someone to pick it up.
- Arrange for someone to check on your home periodically.
- Arrange for snow removal (if necessary) and exterior maintenance.
- Consider installing a monitored alarm or cameras or other security devices.
- Consider connecting the plumbing and heating system to a monitored alarm with 24-hour service.
- Change over utilities to digital billing so you can pay from afar.
Empty homes are more susceptible to damage because no one is there to catch a problem early. These homes can also attract criminals. Water is the biggest concern for insurance companies, especially during the winter. If your heating fails and your water is on, burst pipes can cause extensive damage. If you’ve left your water on and no one checks on your home every few days, you may not have coverage.
Canadian Snowbirds and Car Insurance Coverage
If you’re leaving your car behind, it may be tempting to remove your insurance protection from the vehicle. Unfortunately, just because you’re not driving doesn’t mean your vehicle can’t be damaged or cause damage. For example, a parking brake could fail and it could roll down your driveway and hit another vehicle. A storm could also cause damage to your vehicle while you’re away.
You will also find that your car insurance premiums will be higher if you cancel each winter. That’s because insurance companies reward customers with consistent auto insurance with discounts.
Fortunately, you can save if you inform your auto insurance broker or insurer that your vehicle will be parked for the winter. This ensures you’ll retain coverage if something happens but you won’t be paying as much as normal.
If you plan to take your vehicle with you, you should also inform your insurer or broker. In fact, this is required by most insurance companies. Many have limits on how long you can go into the United States without paying an additional premium. Some insurers may not even provide coverage in the US. That’s why it’s important to ensure you’re covered before you go!
Canadian Snowbirds and Travel Medical Insurance
If you’re heading south, your provincial health insurance will only offer limited coverage. As healthcare costs in the US can be extraordinarily high (and even if you’re going further south, medical costs will not be free), it’s important that you have travel medical insurance. Your work and credit card may provide some coverage, but most of these policies have limits, including how many days outside of Canada that will be covered.
Travel medical insurance will cover emergency medical care if you’re suddenly injured or ill. This can include transportation to a hospital or even home to Canada as well as medical treatment. You can generally purchase a policy for the length of your trip and even extend it if you decide to stay abroad for longer.
If you have a pre-existing condition, that particular illness or injury may not be covered, but this isn’t always the case. Depending on your health and age, you may have to do a medical questionnaire or provide documentation.
Canadian snowbirds can also purchase trip cancellation and trip interruption travel insurance. This helps you recoup your costs if you’re unexpectedly forced to cancel your snowbird adventure or if you’re forced to change plans during your vacation.