When Your Home Insurer Knocks at the Door

If you’ve bought a home, you know what a home inspection is all about. If the home inspector does their job right, you will have a clear view of what shape the building is in. You’ll move in feeling confident and aware of the renovations and repairs you may need to undertake in the months and years ahead—but this might not be the last home inspection. Don’t be surprised if your insurance company wants to pay a visit after you move in and get home insurance.

What’s your home insurance company looking for?

Home insurance typically protects homeowners from a myriad of risks; theft, storms, fire, and injury claims. Insurers, on the other hand, rely on an accurate assessment of the condition of the properties they insure. In some cases, the homeowner only needs to verbally provide the information needed, however, depending on the home's age and area, home insurance companies may require a certified inspection to verify the property's condition.

If your home insurer decides to send someone out, a few things they may be looking at might include your home’s:

  • Electrical service

Some types of wiring pose a higher risk of causing an electrical fire, especially after many years of use. Everyone is familiar with the risks around knob and tube wiring, but your home insurer may also be looking at a 60-amp electrical service with concern too.

  • Plumbing

Older pipes are at higher risk of cracks, ruptures or leaks, and specifically homes built prior to 1950 often have galvanized steel pipes, which is estimated to have a life expectancy of just 40 to 50 years. If the plumbing hasn’t been replaced, then the insurance company will want to know in order to properly assess the risk.

  • Oil tank

Oil tanks can cause major environmental damage if they leak, and the clean-up costs can be huge (upwards to $15,000). If you have an oil tank, expect a lot questions about its age and condition.

  • Wood-burning stove(s)

If your home has a wood-burning stove, your home insurer may want to confirm that it is installed and used properly and may want a certified technician to inspect it.

  • Roof

Your roof helps to keep the outside from coming inside and if it’s in need of replacing, it could cause considerable damage during a storm.

  • Potential for liability claims

Part of your home insurance policy includes liability coverage in case someone is injured while on your property. A home insurance inspection will look for anything that raises a red flag. Two prime examples would be any stairs you may have in the home, as well as a pool. With the stairs, the home insurer will be looking to make sure there are hand rails, and with the pool that it’s properly fenced in.

  • Replacement value

Your insurance provider will want to know the replacement cost of your home and it'll often use this home inspection to figure it out. This is different from determining the value of your home, because it factors in the cost of labour and materials to rebuild, as well as the possessions that you brought into the home after you moved in. If, as a result of your home insurer’s inspection it’s determined that your home’s replacement value needs to be increased, you’re home insurance premiums will likely increase too.

Your home insurer has come a knockin’. Do you have to let them in?

Probably. The fine print on home insurance policies usually gives home insurers the right to examine a property they have been asked to cover, and if you opt not to allow them access then they can opt not to provide you the coverage you’re seeking. That said, your home insurer will not show up, or send somebody, unannounced. Your insurer will notify you in advance of a home inspection and set up a mutually agreed upon time. If someone comes to your house, unannounced, saying they’re from the insurance company, play it safe and don’t allow them in and contact your insurer immediately.