Ontario Snowbird Insurance 101: Protect Your Home and Car During Your Absence

Travelling South In The Winter

There are plenty of questions you can ask people to get to know them better. Are they an early bird or a night owl? Are they a cat person or a dog person? (Lots of dog people here at Morison). Do they prefer summer or winter? For those who like summer, Ontario’s colder months might be a time of year when they feel less at home. While those who enjoy the colder temperatures of a Canadian winter can enjoy tobogganing, hockey and snowmobiling, those who like the summer might wish they could enjoy their preferred activities without shovelings snow. Many of these people who love summer, especially those enjoying the freedom of retirement, choose to become snowbirds, and enjoy the warm weather for a longer period of time. Those who do so will require that they protect their home and vehicle with snowbird insurance.

What Are Snowbirds?

There are a few definitions of the word 'snowbird.' The type of snowbird we are referring to goes to warmer climates when the temperature at home gets close to zero during the winter months, often staying in warmer places for several months. For those who enjoy summer and have the financial freedom to travel, it can be appealing to be playing beach volleyball and exploring warmer destinations while your friends back home are stuck having to spend an hour on snow removal just to get to the grocery store.

As fun as the experience of enjoying more summer (or at least less winter) is, you need to do more preparations than just making travel plans. Snowbird car insurance, whether you take your car with you or leave it behind, as well as snowbird home insurance, can get quite complicated when you leave for the cold winter months. Most people don't realize how being a snowbird can affect your insurance. 

Should Snowbirds Let Their Insurance Broker Know That They're Leaving For Winter?

Yes. Leaving your home or vehicle unattended for months can complicate potential snowbird insurance issues, and not letting your broker know can make things even worse. 

Both car insurance and home insurance policies have coverage limitations  that impact you if you leave the province, and doing so will in most cases require some changes to your coverage. It is your broker’s job to ensure that these changes are made. If you do not let your broker know, they will not be able to make the needed changes or recommend additional coverage options, and you will be left unprotected in the case of an incident. This could lead you to lose thousands of dollars in many cases as you will have to pay out of pocket for something that very easily could have been covered.

Your snowbird insurance broker will know exactly what your policy states and will be able to help with any preparation. They will let you know your insurance company's policy, let you know your insurance options, and may even contact your insurance company on your behalf. Due to the long list of ways something could go wrong if you don't contact your broker, it only makes sense to let them know.

How Does Being A Snowbird And Leaving The Country For Winter Impact My Home Insurance?

Leaving your home for an extended period of time has a massive impact on your snowbird home insurance. As mentioned earlier, there is a high likelihood that your insurance company will require you to contact them and may require someone to check-in at your home occasionally. If you are away from home for a prolonged period of time, your insurance provider may void your insurance during this time or restrict certain coverages, so it's best that you take as many precautions as possible to avoid these scenarios.

This check-in requirement is due to a series of risks including, but not limited to, an unoccupied home being the target of criminal activity and the increased chance of pipes freezing and bursting when someone isn’t home. Some insurance companies also require, or at least recommend, that you turn off your home's water lines, keep the inside of your home at certain temperatures, or take other steps to winterize your home to help minimize these risks..

If you need help or have questions on what to do in the event you are going to be away from your home in the winter, from an insurance standpoint, contact your Morison insurance broker, and they will be happy to assist you throughout the process.

How Long Can A Snowbird's Home Stay Empty Without It Impacting Their Insurance?

It depends. A common scenario is that if a home is empty for four consecutive days, it will impact the snowbird’s insurance policy. However, some insurance companies provide more time, while others have shorter time limits. If you would like to know more, don't hesitate to contact your Morison Insurance broker to find out the requirements on your snowbird home insurance policy.

What Is The 30-Day Rule For Canadian Snowbirds?

The 30-day rule, as it pertains to snowbird insurance, mentions how a home that is empty of people for more than 30 days may count as unoccupied for insurance purposes, as the home insurance might lapse, depending on the details of your plan. However, it is essential to note the difference between being unoccupied and vacant. Unoccupied means that the current owners are not home for an extended period, and the home is also not being lived by anyone else, such as a house sitter or a renter. However, it also means that the owner currently plans to return to the property and live there again. Vacant means the owner has effectively abandoned the property and does not plan to live in it again. If a home is waiting to be rented out, it will likely count as vacant. Typically, due to having nobody officially living there, a vacant home will not contain any furniture.

To learn more about how your home is treated after not being occupied for 30 days, we recommend you speak with your Morison Insurance broker.

If Someone Checks My Home While I'm Away, Will It Affect My Insurance?

Having someone check on your home is necessary, according to many snowbird insurance plans. Some plans go as far as to say that someone must check in daily. Others are more lenient, going every four days or even longer between check-ins. Your snowbird insurance policy will contain details about how long your home can remain unoccupied. If you want to know more, your Morison insurance broker will gladly explain it to you.

Do Snowbirds Need Unoccupied Home Insurance?

It depends. As mentioned earlier, if a home has not been lived in for 30 days, it will likely count as unoccupied from an insurance standpoint. What this means will depend on your coverage details. However, even if this is the case, unoccupied home insurance is a special type of insurance that ensures your insurance remains active while you are away.

Please note that it is essential to sort this out before leaving for your warm and sunny winter vacation. Maintaining snowbird home insurance coverage while away is recommended, as your home faces increased risks. These risks include things like an increased chance of a robbery if a criminal sees your home as an easy target, as well as higher chances of an incident such as a pipe burst.

Do Snowbirds Need Vacant Home Insurance?

While it is unlikely that you will require vacant home insurance, it is indeed a possibility. You may need vacant home insurance if you wish to rent out or sell your home after returning. If you think you need vacant home insurance, you should contact your Morison Insurance broker to find out more.

How Does Leaving The Country For Winter Impact A Snowbird's Car Insurance?

Of course. Snowbird car insurance generally has terms about the complexities of travelling outside Canada. This matters both for the car you take and any cars that you leave behind. Suppose you own two different vehicles, and you use one to migrate south for the winter and leave the other one behind at your warm-weather home. In that case, your insurance company will handle the two very differently due to the different risks while in these situations.

Does A Snowbird's Car Insurance Cover Them When They Go To Another Country?

It depends. Driving outside of Ontario can impact your car insurance. If you are travelling in the United States most insurance policies allow the insured to travel between the two countries freely, although your rates might be adjusted. If you are travelling to another country, such as Mexico, insurance companies tend to be a lot more strict and may not allow you to use your current plan.

An important car insurance travel tip is to check with your Morison insurance broker and they will work with you to see if your coverage will work as intended and will assist you in making any additional changes needed.

How Long Can A Snowbird Keep Their Car In Another Country And Maintain Their Insurance?

It depends. As stated earlier, many auto insurance policies will require you to make changes to be insured while abroad. It also depends heavily on which country you are going to. It is common for Canadians travelling to the United States to have their snowbird car insurance cover them for up to six months per year, although the number does vary based on the insurance company. Travelling to another country however can make things more complicated as most policies in Auto Insurance Policies in Ontario only provide coverage in Canada and the United States. To learn how long your coverage lasts, please get in touch with your Morison insurance broker.

Should Snowbirds Increase Their Liability Coverage While In Another Country?

Increasing liability coverage is a common recommendation for those travelling south for the winter. For those unfamiliar, liability coverage is the amount that your insurance company will cover for you if you are held responsible for damages. These damages include damage to a third party's property and if you injure or otherwise harm a pedestrian and are required to reimburse the victim or their family.

There are reasons that it is often recommended that Canadian snowbirds are often given this advice. The first is because the American court system makes coming after someone who is believed to be at fault much easier, meaning that even if you follow all road trip safety tips, there's still a chance you could face charges. Since payouts in the states are also more prominent, this increases the odds of you facing a possible sticky situation and increases the amount you will likely have to pay if you are found responsible. Extra coverage is helpful if you are required to pay more than expected.

The second reason snowbirds are told to increase their liability coverage is the exchange rate. If you go to the United States with $500,000 worth of snowbird car coverage and have to pay $500,000 in fees, you might think your policy can cover it. However, you must remember that since you are under a Canadian auto insurance policy, your coverage is measured in Canadian dollars. If the fee you face is in the United States, you will be paying in American dollars, meaning your coverage will no longer cover the entire payout due to the comparative strength of the American dollar.

Can Snowbirds Lower Their Coverage On A Car They Leave Behind?

Lowering your premium on a car that stays in Canada as you travel is an option. However, whether or not you do it is a personal choice that depends on several factors. Where you're storing your vehicle (whether at home or in a storage facility), the coverage your current plan provides, your trip duration, the level of snowbird insurance premiums you are willing to pay, and more. While lowering your premium is an option that works for some as a way to save money while still providing adequate coverage, others are scared of losing coverage that would reimburse them for damage caused by a third party while the insured is down south. To find out if lowering your premium is right for you, contact your Morison Insurance broker.

Remember To Enjoy The Warm Weather

Although, understandably, all of these potential snowbird insurance issues worry you, it is essential to remember why you became a Canadian snowbird. Whether it is due to your love of summer and warm weather, you have relatives down south who you value your time with, you enjoy the thrill of seeing as many different places as possible, or you're just glad to be away from all the inconveniences that come with snow, at the end of the day you go down south to relax and enjoy your time away. Remember to enjoy the travel plan you made, and have fun with the warmer weather. Your trusted Morison Insurance Broker is here to assist you along the way and guide you through your policy coverages and make any necessary recommendations. 

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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