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If you own your home, you already know the benefits of ownership don’t come cheap: on top of mortgage payments, there are utility bills, property taxes, and, if you live in a condo, maintenance fees. All of this makes it hard to get enthusiastic about adding home insurance to your list of expenses, but it’s a necessity. Plus, why wouldn’t you want to protect one of the most expensive things you’ve ever purchased?

A good policy can help you deal with financial losses if your belongings are ever damaged or stolen. It can also help you get back on your feet financially if your home itself is ever damaged.

Just as there are many different types of homes, there are many different types of home insurance. Below, we’ve created a crib sheet of all the things that you need to consider if you’re buying home insurance in Hamilton, Ont. — including how to choose an insurance company that will give you the right amount of coverage at the right price.

Your home insurance questions, answered.

What kind of risks are specific to Hamilton?

Living in Hamilton has a lot of perks. It’s cheaper than Toronto, yet close enough to the city that you can easily visit. It has a vibrant arts community and it’s right on scenic Lake Ontario. As with any other city, though, it’s not without its hazards. Hamilton residents may experience the following:

  • Flooding. According to the government of Canada, floods are the most frequent natural hazard in the country. They can wreak havoc on your home by inflicting structural damage. Melting snow, ice jams, heavy spring rains and summer thunderstorms are some of the weather events that can trigger a flood.
  • Blizzards. The winters in Ontario can be frigid and Hamilton is not exempt. Blizzards can damage your windows and roof. They can also freeze pipes, trigger power outages and flooding, or cause your roof to collapse if too much snow piles up.
  • Earthquakes. Though not a frequent occurrence, the Golden Horseshoe region (the most densely populated region in Ontario, which includes Hamilton) has been known to experience earthquakes. A 5.2 earthquake originating in Quebec rattled Hamilton in 2013.

What risks does home insurance cover in Hamilton?

Home insurance policies provide financial support if you ever need to repair your home, replace your belongings and cover legal costs in case anyone gets injured on your property and wants to sue. They can also help cover the cost of alternative accommodations if you need to relocate temporarily.

A standard home insurance policy covers the following risks:

  • Fire.
  • Lightning.
  • Smoke damage (excluding damage caused by fireplaces).
  • Theft.
  • Vandalism.
  • Wind and hail.
  • Water damage.
  • Broken windows.
  • Electrical current.
  • Explosion.
  • Falling objects (unless propelled by a landslide, avalanche, or earthquake).

What risks won’t home insurance cover in Hamilton?

Of course, home insurance won’t cover every type of risk. Some commonly excluded risks include:

  • Sewer backup.
  • Landslides.
  • Damage from freezing outside the home.
  • Damage from insects and rodents.
  • Damage to property acquired illegally.
  • Flooding caused by overland water.
  • Earthquakes.
  • Pollution.
  • Water damage caused by frozen or burst pipes in the winter.

If you want to beef up your home insurance to protect your home against these perils, you can purchase additional coverages, which are called "endorsements" in the insurance world. Adding endorsements will enhance your coverage, but it will push up the cost of your premium.

What kind of home insurance do you need in Hamilton?

There are four main categories of home insurance:

  • Comprehensive - This type of insurance will give you the most coverage. A comprehensive policy covers damage caused by all insurable perils to your property and belongings. The only exceptions are the risks that are covered by additional endorsements or risks that are explicitly excluded from most policies (see above).
  • Basic or Named Perils - This type of insurance will only cover your property against the risks that you name in the policy.
  • Broad - Broad home insurance policies fall between a comprehensive and basic home insurance policy. It offers comprehensive coverage if the structure of your home is damaged, but will only offer basic coverage for your belongings.
  • No-Frills - No-frills policies give you the absolute minimum in terms of coverage. This type of insurance usually only covers your home in the case of fire and a handful of other common risks. Homeowners usually only get no-frills insurance when their homes have structural issues that make them ineligible for a basic policy. No-frills insurance can protect what you own while you are making upgrades or repairs, but once your home is up to your insurer’s standards, you can — and should — switch over to another type of policy.

Because every home is unique, you’ll want coverage for the hazards that you’re most likely to face in your home and neighbourhood. If your policy doesn’t offer coverage for flood damage, for example, ask your broker or insurance provider whether they offer an add-on for it.

What can you do to save on home insurance in Hamilton?

There’s almost always something you can do to reduce the price of your home insurance premiums while still getting the coverage you need. These include:

  • Bundling your home and auto policies with the same insurer.
  • Raising your credit score.
  • Installing a home sprinkler system.
  • Installing a home alarm system.
  • Purchasing a ‘claims protector’, an optional product that will stop your premium from going up if you make a claim.
  • Avoid making small claims.
  • Don’t smoke indoors.
  • Comparing quotes from different companies — never settle for the first option.

What are the best insurance companies in Hamilton?

Here’s the thing: there isn’t one insurance company that will be the best choice for absolutely everyone. Every homeowner has unique needs.

The best way to find a good insurance provider is by shopping around. Compare the quotes, type of coverage and the level of customer service provided by each company to find a policy that fits both your coverage needs and your budget. Also, check each company’s rating from insurer rating agencies like A.M. Best and read reviews about its trustworthiness. If you’re still unsure, you can contact the Better Business Bureau to see if it has received any complaints against the company or brokerage.

Some of the most established home insurance providers in Ontario include:

  • Aviva
  • Intact Insurance
  • Wawanesa
  • TD Insurance
  • RBC Insurance
  • The Co-operators

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