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Home insurance isn’t required by law in British Columbia, but it is recommended for homeowners and renters alike. The right insurance policy means you won’t have to worry about the expense when something unexpected affects your home. Home insurance covers fire, vandalism and the increasing impact of climate change, such as flooding. Different lenders offer different rates and different amounts of coverage, so doing a little comparison shopping is important. LowestRates.ca compares the market for you and connects you to brokers that can offer you a better rate.

We’ll try to answer some of the more pressing questions you might have about buying insurance home in British Columbia.

What affects home insurance rates in British Columbia?

Your home insurance premium contributes to a pool of funds that other policyholders pay into. Your policy will help pay for replacement costs and additional living expenses. You will not receive the market value of your home, e.g. the total value of the land and house if you were to sell it. Home insurance covers the replacement cost of a house’s structure and its contents. It also covers personal liability in case someone injures themselves on your property, or you damage someone else’s property.

Premiums are calculated based on the risk factors associated with your home including:

  • The square footage of your home
  • Contents and quality of construction
  • The location of your home
  • Distance to a fire hydrant
  • Your claims history
  • The age of your roof
  • Plumbing
  • Your home’s electrical system

Risk factors in British Columbia

Natural disasters can occur at any time, so you should check that your policy addresses these two specific needs for British Columbia:

Earthquakes

B.C. is at a higher risk of experiencing earthquakes than other parts of Canada. Within B.C., Victoria and Vancouver are particularly vulnerable to a severe earthquake within the next 50 years, as both cities are situated on the edge of two major tectonic plates. Earthquakes cause shaking, which can impact the structure of your home as well as damage its contents. Loss or damage to your home due to an earthquake is not covered in regular insurance policies so it should be bought as an add-on.

Regions at highest risk: Offshore earthquakes are a frequent occurrence along B.C.’s coastline. The cities most likely to feel the impact of seismic activity include Prince Rupert in the north, as well as Nanaimo, Victoria, and Vancouver to the south.

Forest fires

Most policies cover fire damage from fire as long as there’s proof that it was not set intentionally. This includes wild fires and fires caused by natural disasters. Additional living expenses will also be covered in the event of a mandatory evacuation order.

Regions at highest risk: The number — and severity — of forest fires in B.C. is rising every year. The areas most vulnerable to fires are Vancouver Island, Kelowna and Penticton, due to their proximity to wooded areas.

What kind of coverage do you need in British Columbia?

There are several types of coverage to meet the specific needs of homeowners in BC; maybe you want full coverage or maybe you want something more economical. While it’s best to clarify the specifics with your insurance company, categories include:

Comprehensive or All Perils - This type of policy offers the most thorough coverage for the building and its contents, excluding optional coverage and predicted events which are not included. Condos and mobile homes need coverage specific to property type.

Basic or Named Perils - An economical option if you can cover some costs yourself in the case of damage or loss. This policy will cover only what is specifically stated within it.

Broad - A happy medium between a basic policy and a comprehensive policy, this covers the building and named contents or perils.

No Frills - The option for homes which don’t meet the standards of most insurers, and require upgrades to physical problems.

Personal liability - If someone is injured on your property, and they’re not a resident, personal liability insurance will cover some damages. For example, a passerby slips because you have not yet shovelled the snow on your walkway.

Endorsements - These are additional or optional forms of coverage. Extra coverage is available for earthquakes and sewer backup coverage in low-lying areas. Depending on where you live and the structure of your home, earthquake coverage could cost between five and 50% of your premium.

Who regulates the home insurance industry in B.C.?

The Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) is the government watchdog in charge of overseeing financial institutions operating in B.C. While the Insurance Council of British Columbia is responsible for licensing insurance agents and adjusters, FICOM is the regulatory body for insurance companies and also approves rate changes. Its website offers a breadth of information and links related to the insurance industry and resolving disputes.

What can you do to save on home insurance in B.C.?

Here are some things you can do that might lower the cost of your premium:

  • Increase your deductible if you can afford to
  • Install a theft alarm system and smoke detector
  • Upgrade your electrical, heating and plumbing systems
  • Protect your home from severe weather and water damage
  • Ask your broker or agent for discounts
  • Pay your premium annually instead of monthly
  • Quit smoking for a lower risk of fires
  • Insure your home for the cost to rebuild it, don’t overinsure it
  • Bundle with your car insurance provider
  • Compare home insurance rates from various providers

What companies offer the best home insurance in B.C.?

The best home insurance provider for your neighbour may not be the best provider for you. Your house may have a rental unit in the basement, while the house next door’s unfinished basement is at risk of flooding during a storm. This is why it’s important to consider your specific needs and shop around. Look at the details and ask specific questions to ensure you policy covers your needs. Once you’re insured, make sure to keep your provider informed with an updated inventory of your belongings and their value, and any renovations you make to your home. This will ensure your premium and coverage directly relate to your needs. A few of the many companies that offer home insurance in British Columbia include:

  • TD Insurance
  • Intact Insurance
  • The Co-operators 
  • belairdirect
  • BCAA

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