The COVID-19 pandemic has many of us staying at home and with good reason. Among the many other disruptions it is causing in daily life, it may also require us to revisit our auto and home insurance needs and coverage.
For example, if you are working from home and have made some major purchases such as an ergonomic desk, top-of-the-line office chair and new computer equipment, make sure you keep the receipts and adjust your contents insurance if necessary. Some insurance providers have even temporarily increased clients’ coverage for no additional fees.
Staying home more also means your car is not getting nearly as much use. As people self-isolate, there aren't many cars on major streets and highways. That can be a good thing – far fewer driving trips mean far fewer accidents. If your vehicle is spending most of the time in your driveway right now, you might be able to get a break on your auto insurance.
Some companies have already announced discounts for customers, a “stay at home payment” reduction of their monthly auto premium. Others are waiving cancellation fees on existing policies, or reinstating customers’ policies in the event of a cancellation because of non-payment.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), customers whose driving habits have changed significantly, or who are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic should contact their insurance representative.
Traffic Is Way Down, but Speeding Is Way Up
The empty roads are tempting some drivers to treat the highways like Formula 1 racetracks. Police in major cities throughout Ontario and Alberta have noted a significant increase in speeding-related offences compared to the same time in 2019. So, take note and slow down when you drive.
“We never want to see collisions on our roadways,” Sgt. Kerry Bates, with Edmonton Police Service Traffic Section says in a media release. “But especially now, when our first responders, health-care workers and hospitals are already under strain, the last thing we want to do is burden them with collisions that are completely preventable.”
There have been several alarming reports of drivers caught travelling almost 200 km per hour in some cases. Fines are doubled for drivers caught speeding by emergency vehicles or through construction zones.
I’ve Been in a Collision. What Now?
What if you are abiding by all the rules and are still unlucky enough to get into a fender bender in the parking lot during your weekly outing to the grocery store? Don’t panic. Reporting a collision and making a claim is just about business as usual, with a few small adjustments.
Collision reporting centres are still open but are keeping shorter "COVID-19 hours" for now. They have also implemented some screening and physical distancing activities such as:
- Point-and-click temperature readers
- Limiting the number of occupants into the collision reporting centre
- Putting restrictions on who can attend
- Increased sanitization
- Not directly handling customer documents
Call your local collision reporting centre before visiting to confirm the hours and rules that you will need to follow.
Car Repairs and Filing an Auto Claim
If you need your car repaired following a collision, many auto body and repair shops remain open during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, only essential repairs should be done at this time, such as those needed to ensure the car is safe and secure. Other non-essential things like switching over to summer tires can wait.
Filing your claim should mostly be business as usual, but remember your insurance representative is likely working remotely, so there could be longer than usual wait times.
Many companies are using electronic documents and signatures instead of paper documents to help keep people safer and make things more efficient.
Can I Sell My Home During the Lockdown?
Buying and selling a home during this time has its challenges. But real estate (and things like home inspections) are considered essential services, so it can be done with a few adjustments to make things safer for everyone.
Real estate lawyers have amended their rules, and you will no longer need to attend in-person to sign documents to demonstrate your identity.
Open houses are not allowed right now in Ontario and Alberta, and in-person viewings are also limited. Agents are getting creative and opting to use things such as:
- Virtual tours
- 360 walk-throughs
- Mobile measurement applications
- Digital floor plans
Home inspectors are required to clean and disinfect tools after every inspection as well as wear gloves, masks, and shoe covers. Whenever possible, inspection reports are reviewed by phone or teleconference instead of meeting in person.