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Andrew Caton is passionate about two things - Real Estate and the Greater Hamilton, Ontario area including Hamilton Mountain, Stoney Creek, Ancaster, Dundas and Waterdown. Through the blog we hope to share the best of our city as well as provide timely and helpful real estate advice - whether you're buying or selling a home.
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Why Can't I Get Homeowner's Insurance?

Why Can't I Get Homeowner's Insurance?

So you are in the process of buying a home, and the anticipation, like so many buyers, is to just focus on getting an accepted offer. Often times, an overlooked piece of the puzzle is home insurance. Despite what many think, you can’t always automatically get homeowners insurance on the home you are about to buy.  Here are the areas, and questions, almost all Insurance Brokers will ask.

Electrical

The first  area would be electrical wiring, specifically knob & tube, and aluminum wiring. Knob and tube can be found in homes 50 + years in age, and is generally not accepted by a standard insurer unless it has been updated. Aluminum wiring, was used in homes in Ontario between the 1960’s and 1970’s during a period of high copper prices. Both these types of wiring pose higher risk than copper wiring, which is in the majority of homes built in 1980’s and onwards. This doesn’t mean that the home can’t be insured, it just means that the insurer may want the wiring replaced or updated to todays standards.   

Questions to ask :

  • What type of wiring is in the home?
  • Has there been any updates to any of the wiring? If so, when were they done?
  • Is the electrical system on breakers or fuses?
  • If there is knob & tube or aluminum wiring, is there an Electrical Safety Authority certificate available?
  • What amperage service does the home have? (Minimum by today’s standard, should be 100 amp service)

Plumbing

With the increase of water damage, plumbing has become more of a touchy area for some insurers. If you are looking at an older home, and there is still some galvanized steel or iron plumbing, this could pose a problem due to the potential of broken, blocked,  or leaking pipes. If you come across lead plumbing, you are going to want to consult with a professional due to the health risk factor. Also, with the recent rise of sewer backup claims, many of the insurance companies are encouraging homeowners to install backflow valves, and battery backup systems for sump pumps to help mitigate the risk of water damage.

Questions to ask:

  • What type of plumbing does the home have?
  • Has there been any updates to any of the plumbing? If, when were they done?
  • How old is the hot water tank?
  • Is there a back flow valve installed?
  • Is there a sump pump? Does it have a battery backup system?

Heating

Older furnaces can be problematic. If a furnace breaks down in the middle of winter for an extended period of time, you could have a situation where the water in your plumbing lines could freeze, and cause a bursting line. There is also risk of potential gas leak with an older furnace. If the home has a wood stove, you will want to find out the age, and if it was professionally installed. If the wood stove is older, often times the insurance companies will request a WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer Inc.) inspection which determines if the stove meets current safety regulations.

Questions to ask:

  • How old is the furnace?
  • What type of furnace is it?
  • Was it installed professionally?
  • Has it been serviced annually?
  • How old is the wood stove?
  • Is it direct vented to the outside?
  • Was it installed professionally?
  • Has it been serviced regularly?

Roof

The roof is one of the homes main barriers of protection from the elements. If the roof is older, or has signs of damage, this would be an area of concern for any insurer due to the risk of water damage. 

Questions to ask:

How old is the roof?

What type of roof is it?

Was it professionally installed?

If the roof has asphalt singles, has it been completed replace, or just re-shingled?

How many years are the shingles warranted for?

Environmental

The main environmental concern that would affect the availability of getting insurance would be with oil, or fuel storage tanks. Often times, rural properties will have interior or exterior oil tanks which store the heating oil until it is burned by the furnace. Oil tanks, generally are a risk factor for insurance companies due to the chance of spillage and environmental contamination. The regulations for oil tanks, and insurer requirements continue to evolve, and change. Below, I have listed the questions and  areas to note when visiting the property.

Questions to ask:

  • How old is the fuel tank?
  • What year was it installed?
  • Make & serial number if available?
  • Was it installed professionally?
  • What is the capacity of the tank?
  • Where is it located?
  • Is the area around the tank free of debris and heat sources?
  • Are there any signs of leakage?

These questions are a general guideline for insurance purposes. A qualified realtor, home inspector, plumber or electrician and insurance broker are invaluable resources when buying a home. If you ever have any insurance questions, feel free to contact me for further information.

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