Should You Increase Your Home Insurance When Your Parents Move in?

This article has been updated from a previous version.

According to Statistics Canada, there are 441,745 multi-generational family households across Canada as of 2021.

There are many benefits to this living arrangement, both financial and emotional. Your parents may need caregiving support and companionship, and, if you have young children, they can have the opportunity to bond with their grandparents.

When it comes to insurance considerations, your insurance policy likely won’t require many changes if you move your parents into your home in Canada. However, in the case that you choose to build a separate in-law suite or “granny flat” instead of moving your parents into a spare bedroom, you’re likely to see changes with your insurance costs.

There are some things you should consider before making that move. Here are some tips for welcoming older relatives into your home.

Plan carefully before moving your aging parent into your home

As parents grow older, it seems only natural to want to offer them the same care they provided you when you were growing up. However, your parents may not always feel the same way — independence is crucial for many seniors.

It’s important to allow your aging parents to keep their dignity. If they need help with bathing and getting dressed, they may feel most comfortable getting help from a caregiver.

Establishing clear boundaries about these matters can go a long way when transitioning your parents into your home.

Adapt, build, or renovate living space, bathrooms, and safety accommodations

While moving your parents into your home, make sure you prioritize their safety and privacy.

Some people divide their homes into sections that can be opened for family activities when desired and closed for privacy.

Or, say you have a multi-storey home. While your parent may be able to navigate stairs independently now, this might not always be the case. If your parent uses a wheelchair or walker, your doorframes and hallways should also be able to accommodate them.

Here are some other aspects of your home to consider:

Bathroom safety: Bathrooms can be hazardous for seniors. Non-slip mats, shower seats, and handheld shower heads can make bathing safer and more comfortable. Raised toilet seats with grab bars can also be helpful.

Kitchen adjustments: Adjust the kitchen to make it user-friendly for them. This might include lowering countertops and cabinets, purchasing lightweight cookware, and possibly even installing a stove with front controls for easier access.

Flooring: Loose rugs can be a tripping hazard, while tile flooring can be slippery. Carpeting can also be difficult for wheelchairs and walkers to move on, so a hard surface might be a better option.

Adding an in-law suite or guesthouse for your parents

If you have the space, converting a full floor into an in-law suite, or adding a laneway home above the garage provides privacy and independence for your parents while keeping them close by.

Building regulations in Ontario

In Ontario, the Building Code sets minimum construction standards for building secondary units in your house. The secondary unit must have its own private bathroom, kitchen, living and sleeping areas, and they should have a separate entrance.

The City of Ottawa, for example, has permitted secondary units within detached, linked-detached and semi-detached dwellings since 2005. By 2014, regulations expanded to allow second units within townhouses and duplexes.

Financial considerations and insurance costs

Adding an in-law suite or guesthouse will likely increase the value of your property, which could lead to higher home insurance premiums. If you choose to build a free-standing unit on your property, like a laneway home, you may need additional coverage.

If you don’t notify your insurance company that you’ve made home improvements, you could risk having your policy voided. You should always keep your insurance company posted on changes to your living situation.

The Canadian government offers a refundable tax credit of up to $7,500 for constructing a secondary suite. This can help offset the costs of building living accommodation for your parents.

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Be honest with your family about emotional and financial needs

Asking your aging parent to live with you will bring emotional and financial challenges. You may not be able to provide all the health care and emotional support that your parent needs.

If you’ve moved your parent out of a familiar home or community, and you and your spouse work long hours, your parent could end up feeling even more isolated and lonely.

Increased car insurance costs: Adding your parents to your car insurance policy

If your parents are not able to drive, you may need to arrange transportation for their medical appointments or social activities. This could mean additional costs for public transportation, taxi services, or increased use of your own vehicle.

If they do drive and plan on using your car, adding a secondary driver to an insurance policy will likely increase your premiums. If your parents have a clean driving record, the impact might be minor. However, many insurance companies consider this age group to be higher risk, as they may be more likely to have accidents and file claims. In Canada, the cost of insurance gets progressively higher after the age of 70.

Related: How does age and gender impact your car insurance?

Some insurance companies offer discounts for senior drivers, especially if they have a history of safe driving. It’s always a good idea to ask your insurance provider about any discounts available.

Notify your insurance provider of any changes

When it comes to insurance of all forms, you can never be too cautious – especially when aging seniors are involved. Remember to inform your insurance company about all regular users of the vehicle, including your parents. If they aren’t listed on your policy and get involved in an accident, the insurance company might deny the claim.

You will also want to notify your home insurance provider to list your parents under your home insurance, and to inform them of any major changes or upgrades to your home, or if the value of your insured items changes dramatically.

Multi-generational living can be complicated — make sure you take all the proper safety precautions and ensure you have adequate coverage for your loved ones.

Read next: Do you need home insurance if you’re living in a family member’s home long term?