Update Your Home Insurance Broker

5 Important Life Changes To Update Your Home Insurance Broker

We all experience changes in our lives. But, there are some that require you to update your home insurance broker to stay covered.

We know that changes happen in everyone’s life, big and small. Over the long-term, but even year to year – the typical duration of most home insurance policies. Conveniently, your home insurance coverage renews automatically every year. But, if you’ve experienced changes in certain aspects of your life, it might impact your insurance coverage.

When you sign your policy, the insurance you purchase covers the circumstance of your life at that time. And a lot can happen over the course of a year. At renewal time, consider how those circumstances have changed – changes that might concern your home insurance coverage. A review of your insurance and a chat with your home insurance broker will ensure that you maintain the appropriate protection.

Not familiar with possible changes that can influence your homeowner’s coverage? Here are the updates you should provide to your home insurance broker:

1. Home upgrades or renovations

When you first purchase your homeowner’s policy, your home insurance broker conducts a thorough assessment of your home to estimate the value of your coverage. A variety of factors were explored – the size of your home, the number of bathroom facilities, the type of heating, your electrical and plumbing, roofing material, etc. It’s the various facets of your home that will determine the cost to rebuild in case of total loss.

Again, this estimate is based on the state of your home when you purchased your insurance. Upgrades and renovations will add value to your home. Consequently, it’s vital that you update your home insurance broker about any improvements to ensure that you and your home have full coverage.

Extra bonus: there are often savings to be had in premiums when you improve your home, too. When you upgrade infrastructure systems (heat, plumbing, and electrical), it can save you money in reduced premiums. Talk to your home insurance broker!

2. When you purchase valuables

Your home insurance policy includes more than just the structure of the dwelling. It also covers your belongings and helps to replace them in the event of an insured loss. So, if you make a purchase of value between insurance renewals, update your home insurance broker to see if a reassessment of your coverage is necessary.

Wondering about the total value of your belongings? Check out this handy tool to help you calculate what you own.

3. Home-based business? Check with your home insurance broker

Growing in popularity over the past decade or so but exploding throughout these years of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people operate home-based businesses, large and small. If you have a business from your home, you should discuss it with your insurance broker.

Depending on what kind of business you operate and the scale of your operations, your existing homeowner’s policy might be adequate. It could cover some, or perhaps even all, facets of your home-based business. Other home businesses, perhaps not. Understand, too, that in the event of a claim, unreported business activity could invalidate parts of your home insurance.

Don’t risk a home-based business without the appropriate coverage. Questions? Talk to your broker.

4. Marriage or divorce? Update your broker!

Beyond just the obvious concerns around your home and your belongings, lifestyle changes can impact your homeowner’s coverage, too. If your relationship status has changed since your last renewal, it could necessitate an update to your home insurance policy.

Additionally, if you’ve transitioned from tenant insurance to homeowner’s insurance (or vice versa), you should update your home insurance broker. Similarly, talk to your agent if you add another homeowner. If you don’t update your broker about these life changes, you risk carrying inadequate coverage.

5. When people move into your house

The design of your home insurance included the number of people living in your home was a factor. The number of residents in your home is especially relevant if you have tenants or own a short-term rental. Regardless, when anyone moves in – or out – of a property you own, update your home insurance broker. You need to know that you have the appropriate insurance protection.

Noone’s immune – change happens. And that’s exciting! And while you may have other priorities over the details of your home insurance, it’s still important to your peace of mind and well-being. No matter the changes in your life, your home insurance broker wants to help answer any question and ensure you have the protection you need.  Talk to us!

whitlock insurance - Loss of Use insurance coverage

Understanding Loss of Use. An Important Part of Your Home Insurance

If you can’t use your property after damage in an insured loss, loss of use coverage offers you valuable protection.

When you suddenly lose the use of your property after a disaster, it can be just that much more disorienting. Fortunately, included in your home insurance policy, there is Loss of Use coverage to help get you by. It offers valuable protection when you lose the use of your property after damage and an insured loss. It’s a common component of most home, condo, and tenant insurance policies.

Essentially, Loss of Use covers you when you find yourself suddenly displaced and cannot live in your home due to an insured incident. It’s coverage that reimburses you for additional expenses when you can’t use your property. For instance, if you need to live elsewhere temporarily during home repairs or rebuild after a house fire.

Components of Loss of Use coverage

You may hear Loss of Use referred to as “Additional Living Expenses” (ALE). It’s the most common use of the coverage but is really only one facet of Loss of Use coverage. There are two other elements to the typical Loss of Use coverage:whitlock insurance - loss of use

Additional Living Expenses (ALE)

If your home is unfit to live in after a catastrophe, ALE covers the additional necessary living expenses you have to pay to relocate temporarily.

Defining ALE

Generally speaking, there are two primary circumstances where Additional Living Expenses coverage applies:

  • Direct damage. As mentioned, the most common implementation of ALE is to cover living expenses in the event that your home is suddenly unfit to live in due to insurable damage. For the coverage to apply, the damage results from a peril that your policy covers. For example, fire is a peril included in every home insurance policy. In the event of fire damage, your policy will cover repairs, rebuilding, and your living expenses while you cannot live at home. Pests, on the other hand, are a peril not included in most policies. If termites damage your home and you have to leave during fumigation, it’s not likely that your policy will cover – the termite damage or any ALE.
  • Civil authority order. It’s possible to have to vacate your home under a civil authority order. ALE coverage applies so long as the cause for evacuation is insurable under your policy. For instance, ALE will cover your expenses if you have to evacuate due to wildfire if your insurance covers fire. Even if the fire doesn’t touch your property, you can claim ALE. But, if there is a civil authority order to vacate your premises due to flood and you don’t have flood coverage, you cannot make a claim for any ALE. To cover costs under ALE, the evacuation order must be an order, not an alert or advisory, or if you choose to leave your home voluntarily.
The common extra expenses Loss of Use protection can help cover:
  • A place to live – ALE coverage will pay for a hotel or to rent a furnished apartment. If you’re a renter, ALE will cover only those costs that exceed your normal rent payment.
  • Storage – If you need to store items while your home is repaired or rebuilt, ALE can cover the storage costs.
  • Extra utility charges –  There are typically extra charges when you move, suspend, or cancel utility services. ALE can cover some of the extra costs.
  • Food – Food costs often increase when you can’t be at home.  Staying in a hotel without a kitchen and eating in restaurants adds up!
  • Additional Transportation expenses – A temporary living situation may require additional commuting and travel, making getting to work and school much more expensive. ALE can help cover these increased expenses.
  • Pet – Your temporary living circumstances may not allow for your pets. ALE will cover keeping your furry family members in a kennel.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your situation requires you to make a claim, be sure to keep all of your receipts!

Fair Rental Value

Fair Rental Value is a component of Loss of Use coverage. If you rent all or a portion of your home, you will likely lose rental income if property damage makes the home unliveable – under repair or rebuild. There are policies that will cover lost rental income as part of ALE coverage.

Note: While Fair Rental Value offers coverage for lost rental income in the event of an insured incident, it is not standard coverage on home policies.

For landlords, you have the option to purchase insurance that has rental income coverage included.

Prohibited Access

If you must evacuate your home, but there isn’t yet a loss or even the direct threat of loss, Prohibited Access helps cover any expenses you might incur. For instance, if there’s a nearby wildfire that requires your neighbourhood to relocate or if your neighbour experiences insured damage, putting your home at risk, you are required to leave. Prohibited Access coverage will reimburse any additional living expenses you incur during the time you can’t be in your home.

What Loss of Use doesn’t cover

The easiest way to define Loss of Use or ALE is to consider only the additional costs you wouldn’t incur but in the event you get evacuated from your home. Remember that you are responsible to pay for everything you paid before the event and loss occurred. Mortgage or rent and property tax, for instance, are costs that you need to continue paying, even during a period of temporary relocation.

Do you have questions about your coverage in the event of a crisis? TALK TO US!!

whitlock insurance safe driving

Safe Driving – 5 Ways to Keep Focused and SAFE!

Just a little reminder about safe driving. Consider the following points to help you remember how to stay focused on the road.

According to Transport Canada, distracted driving causes more automobile accidents and collisions than driving impaired. Every driver can take precautions to minimize the likelihood of most types of incidents. How to stay focused behind the wheel?

Here are some sure-fire suggestions to help you drive safely, protecting yourself, your passengers and others on the road.

1. Safe driving means you can’t multi-task

We all take for granted how much we can accomplish while we’re driving. It seems we all forget that we’re in control of many tons of metal propelling at high speed down the road.

It’s hard to resist taking care of pesky little tasks while driving. But you must! It doesn’t matter how comfortable you feel, how ‘one with the automobile’ you feel because you simply can’t account for what others are doing on the road – how alert and focused other drivers are. You just have no control over what happens on the street or highway.

The best way to ensure your safety while you drive, and that of others, is to keep your focus.

2. Reserve your cellphone for emergencies only

In keeping with the first point, it’s important to focus on your driving, not taking or making phone calls. Reserve your mobile phone for emergencies only when you’re driving. It’s not to take distracting social calls.

Modern vehicles allow for hands-free, Bluetooth phone calls. But even that is enough of a distraction that can cause you to miss a critical visual or audio cue that could help you avoid a collision.

Always pull off the road to use your phone if you must take or make a call.

3. Don’t eat while you drive

Clearly, we feel like we have to stress how vital it is to resist doing anything else while you drive your vehicle. And that includes eating. Really, any activity that draws your attention away from what’s happening on the road increases your risk of a motor vehicle accident.

We’ve all brought food to consume in the car, so we can save time eating and just get on the road. But, a major distraction while driving is food spills. The time savings just isn’t worth the risk to yourself, your passengers, or others on the road.

4. Don’t try to drive through sleepiness and fatigue

Did you know? Sleepiness, or fatigue, is considered a cognitive distraction. And fatigue can be lethal if you’re driving. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators reports that fatigue is a factor in as many as 21% of motor vehicle collisions each year – approximately 2,100 serious injuries and 400 deaths.

If you experience drowsiness or feel sleepy as you drive, don’t be afraid to find a safe location to pull over for a quick snooze. Even a few minutes will make a difference in helping you feel more alert. You should also take regular breaks to get out of the car to stretch your legs, helping to reduce feelings of fatigue.

If you choose to power through, you risk nodding off or even falling asleep. Either can result in disaster.

5. Minimize activity in your car

It’s not unusual to drive with several other people, friends, family members, or children in the car. Try to keep your conversations short, always focusing your attention on driving and the road rather than what’s going on in the vehicle, particularly if you’re driving in challenging weather conditions.

Develop good driving habits early

Good habits start early – when you first begin to drive! If you have kids soon to take the wheel, consider driving classes or driving school to give them a great start. If you are a more established driver, it doesn’t hurt to review your skills!

Questions about your automobile insurance? Talk to us!

Whitlock insurance Prevent Losses From Hot Work – Welding Soldering

Prevent Losses From Hot Work – Welding, Soldering, and More

Among the most common reasons small to mid-size industrial properties make insurance claims? Losses from hot work.

“Hot work” refers to any work with ignition sources near flammable materials. Types of hot work involve welding, soldering, and cutting and often produce sparks. And the result of a “quick job” in an area not designed for welding or cutting is often fire.

One of the leading causes of fire in Canada for small to mid-size industrial and commercial operations and one of the top three causes of significant property losses? Hot work. A hot work management program, however, can help reduce the risk of fire hazards by welding, soldering, and other hot work.

Mitigate losses – a hot work management plan

When you take the time to design a hot work management plan, you help to reduce significantly or even eliminate hot work hazards and risks. Plans include policy development, procedures, and assigning responsibilities for all facets of hot work, including accountability. A management plan includes:

    1. Establish policies:
      • WHERE hot work can occur
      • WHEN hot work can’t occur
      • WHO performs, authorizes, and monitors hot work
    2. Identify procedures:
      • Assessments to perform before permitting/performing hot work
      • Preparation procedures for any hot work area
      • If you can’t avoid hot work, detail how to do it. Particularly in areas that might be hazardous
      • List required tools for hot work
      • Hot work permit – How to get one, when to get one, and who can administer it
    3. Train all relevant personnel – management and employees
      • Supervisors, employees, maintenance workers, individuals who work fire watch, fire crews, and contractors all have different roles, trained accordingly
    4. Communicating the management plan
      • Post procedures in a highly visible place
      • Post policies in a highly visible place
      • Post signage in areas where you do NOT permit hot work

Obtain a hot work permit

You can significantly reduce the hazards of hot work with a permit. A two-part tag system, the permit requires whoever performs hot work to complete a safety checklist before they begin any hot work in areas not designated for hot work. Attach one portion of the two-part tag near the work area until the fire watch is complete. Management keeps the other portion of the permit for records, audited by management.

The permit system ensures the individual performing the hot work follows the appropriate safety protocols. It requires they sign off on a checklist before working and after the fire watch is complete. A hot work permit is available for purchase from most retailers of safety supplies.

Best practices

To help prevent damage and losses from hot work, ensure that, in addition to your standard hot work procedures, ask the following questions before work begins:

  • Is all equipment in good operating order?
  • Are all appropriate personal protective devices readily available at the site?
  • Have you trained each worker properly on how to use, clean, and store protective equipment properly?
  • Has someone thoroughly inspected the work area? Are there combustible materials in nearby structures (walls, ceilings, partitions)?
  • Has someone moved all flammable and combustible materials away from the work area?
  • Can you move combustibles? If not, can you cover them with fire-resistant blankets or shields?
  • Have you protected gas lines from hot materials, falling sparks, and other objects?
  • Have combustible materials such as sawdust been swept clean around the work zone? If the floors are combustible, keep them wet or covered with fire-resistant blankets or damp sand.
  • Are the appropriate fire extinguishers (e.g., ABC fire extinguishers) available and easily accessible?
  • Find out more hot work best practices HERE.

Establish a fire watch schedule

A vital component of any hot work management plan is a fire watch. Once the hot work – welding, soldering, grinding, or any other activity that produces heat and sparks – is complete, you MUST conduct a fire watch.

Ensure that no hidden spark or fire has been left that might smoulder or ignite at some point after the hot work is complete. Potentially catastrophic consequences could occur if you miss or skip a fire inspection after the work is done. You might have to pay a properly trained employee to stay longer to inspect and watch the area. But, it’s a worthwhile expense, as many victims of hot work damages and losses will attest.

If you’re unable to afford the extra eyes for an after-hours fire watch, try to limit any hot work to earlier in the day. So, if there are sparks smouldering, they’re caught during the business day. It’s recommended that you keep an eye on the area for up to four hours after the work is complete.

Be sure that your hot work management plan includes ALL hot work activities no matter who performs them, your staff or third-party contractors. Look at your safety policies and be sure that they include hot work. It doesn’t need to be complicated! Simply a page or two will do, outlining specific safety policies and procedures required to conduct hot work.

Questions about a hot work area and your commercial insurance? Talk to us!

Whitlock Insurance Avoid Basement Flood – Your Preparation Checklist

Avoid Basement Flood – Your Preparation Checklist

Spring is a joyous and exhilarating time of year – until you have a basement flood! Protect yourself from possible disaster!

What do you love about springtime? Is it the longer days? The warmer weather? Crocuses and other spring blooms breaking through the cold earth? All of the above? We agree! We are even at peace with the increased rainfall that will help turn everything a vibrant green.

Unless all that rain combined with retreating snow and spring runoff fills our yards and seeps into our basements, causing costly basement flood. If we aren’t properly prepared.

Take stock of the condition of your basement and its contents. If you have a fully finished basement, there’s a lot at stake in the event of a basement flood. Damage or ruin – furnishings, flooring, drywall, valuable mementoes, keepsakes, and documents.

Save yourself a lot of time, work, money, and anguish over lost valuables. Get out ahead of the rain and spring thaw to help keep your property safe.

PREVENT a costly and inconvenient basement flood

If we keep an eye on and maintain just four elements, we increase our chances to prevent a springtime disaster:

  1. Basement flood protection and maintenance – ideally, two times per year

    • Check nearby storm drains and remove any debris
    • Clean out eavestroughs and downspouts of dirt, debris, ice
    • Test your sump pump. Don’t forget the backup power source!
    • Ensure your backwater valve is clear of debris
    • Maintain all plumbing, fixtures, and appliances
    • Test flood alarms
  2. Keep water out of your basement

    • Examine the foundation of your home, indoors and out. Check basement walls and floors for cracks.
    • With a caulking gun, fill cracks with the appropriate crack filler for masonry concrete.
    • Differentiate larger, problematic cracks from the tiny shrinkage cracks visible on homes old and new. You might have to hire an experienced contractor to help you identify the difference.
    • Direct the water from your downspouts at least three feet away from your foundation
    • Extend downspouts and sump discharge pipes to direct water at least 2m away from your foundation or to the nearest drainage swale
    • Install window well covers. Ensure they are 10-15cm above ground level and are properly sealed at the foundation
    • Install water-resistant basement windows
    • Install a backwater valve (work with a plumber and get required permits)
  3. Protect your personal belongings in your basement

    • Store valuables and documents in watertight containers or move elsewhere
    • Store hazardous materials (paints, chemicals) in watertight containers or remove
    • Raise electronics off the floor
    • Select removable area rugs and furnishings that have wooden or metal legs
  4. Water in your basement? Remove as quickly as possible!

    • Take away obstructions to the basement floor drain
    • Remove all water. If you don’t remove it promptly after flooding, the damage can be quite extensive and costly – mould!
    • Install a backup sump pump with a power source
    • With the water removed, dry everything thoroughly. Ensure plenty of ventilation to minimize the potential for mould. Open windows and doors and turn on fans to increase air circulation.

    • Soaked porous items will need to be thrown out – paper documents, newspapers, cardboard boxes. They can be a breeding ground for mould.

    • Dry out your carpets quickly, and you may be able to keep them. If they can’t be thoroughly dried, they may have to be torn up and thrown away.

    • If large portions of drywall are saturated, cut out the damaged areas and replace them.

Review your home insurance coverage

Make sure that you protect your property in case of a basement flood. Review your homeowner’s policy and consider additional coverage if you feel your home is vulnerable to flood. Especially if you have a fully finished basement.

Questions about flood protection for your home? Talk to us!

Whitlock Insurance All You Need to Know About Getting a BC Drivers License

All You Need to Know About Getting a BC Driver’s License

Spring is on the way! And that means a rush on kids getting a new BC driver’s license. Here’s what you need to know:

Spring will be here before we know it and, inevitably, that will mean a whole lot of new, fresh-faced youngsters eager to get behind the wheel with a new BC driver’s license – Learners and New permits – throughout the region.

The pandemic has had an impact on the scheduling of BC drivers license exams and road tests. In answer, ICBC has implemented an efficient online booking system so that our kids and other new drivers can easily book their testing sessions. Be sure to get out ahead, mind you, as the appointments book fast. As with everything these days, anticipate and plan for potential restrictions, which may include masks and physical distancing. Plan ahead to ensure the best possible experience for the excited new driver!

In preparation for getting out on the road with a BC driver’s license, we’ve outlined all the important things to know, from preparation to practice to planning for a test. Read on and fasten your seatbelt… it’s going to be an exciting ride!


They’re ready to jump in and hit the road with their new BC driver’s license. And, of course, you want them to do so. But with confidence and safety. This is an exciting – and scary! – time for young drivers and parents alike. All that freedom and independence; no more relying on rides from mom and dad. It’s a wonderful time in a young person’s life, but it also comes with tremendous responsibility.

What the eager young driver-to-be may not anticipate is how much preparation will be required before they get behind the wheel on their own with a brand new BC drivers license. There are tests, both theory and on the road, but there’s also the expense of a first car insurance policy.

Let’s break things down with a brief outline to help you know what to expect. We’ll also give you let you know where you can find all the information you and the new driver in your life will need:

Pass the knowledge test before driving – the BC Learner’s Permit

To become a legal driver in our province, a knowledge test is the first mandatory step. The first stage in the process to receive a valid BC driver’s license is the Learner’s permit.

With a Learner’s permit, the new driver is able to get real-world practice behind the wheel WITH a licensed adult driver. This is their opportunity to get safe and guided practice. LOTS OF PRACTICE!

To receive the Learners, or “L”, in this, the first step, a first-time driver must achieve a score of, at minimum, 40 out of 50 questions correct on a multiple-choice knowledge test. In order to pass this test they’ll prove that they understand not only the rules of the road, but that they have an awareness about what it means to drive safely. To pass this phase the aspiring driver will:

  • Pay a fee to take the Knowledge test.
  • Take the test from a computer terminal at a registered testing office.
  • Answer questions that include road sign knowledge, driving laws and safe driving practices.
  • Once completed successfully, the new driver will receive a BC Learner’s driving permit and an “L” magnet to display clearly on the back of the vehicle. This magnet indicates the driver’s status to others on the road, including law enforcement and other authorities.
  • Understand that this Learner’s Permit IS NOT a full BC driver’s license. They are restricted to driving with a licensed adult, not on their own. It is required to progress to the further required exams and advanced, independent, licensing.
  • Be authorized to practice driving on the road legally with a fully licensed family member or friend or recognized driving school.

Learner’s (Knowledge) tests are available by appointment only. Book an appointment using ICBC’s online scheduling service.

Graduated Licensing Program

No matter the aspiring driver’s age, every first-time driver in British Columbia must achieve their full BC driver’s license through the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP).

The GLP process provides new drivers with all the information, skills, and perspectives to help make them better, safer drivers who are more competent and confident on the road. Through the GLP, inexperienced drivers gradually become more comfortable as they prepare to become independent drivers. This is achieved first with experienced and trusted supervision and then, eventually, on their own.

To help new drivers make their way through the GLP successfully and receive their BC Drivers License with confidence, there are three tests: a multiple-choice, followed by two on the road. When the new driver proves a level of mastery over the required knowledge and that they can drive safely, the process is typically completed in three years. It’s the years driving as a Learner and New driver that allow ample preparation and practice to develop and reinforce the necessary knowledge, skills, comfort, and confidence they need to drive safely with the rest of us.

The required phases to achieve a full BC driver’s licence – the GLP ‘Learner’ and ‘Novice’ permits:

Phase 1: Learner’s (L) Permit

At any time on or after their 16th birthday, a new driver can receive their L.

The L driving permit – steps:

Knowledge tests are available by appointment only. Book an appointment using ICBC’s online scheduling service.

Learn more about the BC Learner’s licence

Phase 2: Novice (N) Driver Permit

The driver must practice with their N permit for a minimum of a year under the supervision of an experienced, licensed driver. Upon completion of a year of practice, the Learner can take their first road test.

Getting the N permit:

  • Plan ahead and BOOK the CLASS 7 road test
  • Plan that the road test session — including time to review driving performance — will last approximately 45 minutes. The assigned examiner sits beside the driver and decides the route that will test your driving skills best.

Learn more about the Novice licence

Phase 3: Full Driver’s License

The final step! When you complete phase 3, you will be allowed complete independence on the road. The end of mandatory supervision as you drive. When you achieve this phase of the process, you can remove the magnet from your vehicle.

Phase 3 can be completed only after at least two years of safe driving as an N. The requirements for a full driver’s license include:

  • You have driven suspension-free for the previous year as an L driver.
  • The Class 5 road test – booked in advance.
  • Successful completion of the advanced road test. As the driver is more experienced, there will be more difficult and challenging driving environments presented during the road test than was completed for the N. The test along with examination feedback will take approximately 45 minutes.

Learn more about getting the full BC driver’s licence


Protecting the new, young driver – auto insurance coverage

When it comes to insuring young drivers, different factors will determine what you will pay for car insurance. Your insurance agent will identify the insurance rate using the following factors:

  • For the purposes of auto insurance, a young driver is defined by anyone under the age of 25.
  • Multiple risk factors influence the rates for auto insurance, including the increased likelihood of an accident with young drivers.
  • In Canada, young drivers make up about 10 per cent of drivers. The fact is, young drivers are more at risk for auto accidents. They account for about 25 per cent of all accidents resulting in serious injury or death.
  • Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are simply assumed to be at higher risk.

If you have questions about auto insurance for young or new drivers or any other insurance information, CONTACT US!

home preparation tips before you winter vacation

9 Home Preparation Tips – Winter Vacation With Peace of Mind

Before you leave on your long-awaited winter vacation follow these 10 home preparation tips so you can travel with peace of mind.

It’s likely been a very long time since you prepared for an extended vacation – we’ve all been staying so close to home! Consequently, you might be a little rusty when it comes to taking everything into consideration as you head out the door. There’s a lot to think about in your home preparation, particularly if you’re leaving for the entire winter season.

Winter, in fact, can be one of the most problematic of seasons. Between the sub-zero temperatures and the heavy, wet precipitation – a mixed bag sometimes with sleet, snow, and ice wreaking havoc. Without the proper home preparation and supervision, there’s a lot that can go wrong over the course of a couple of months.

It’s very easy to overlook some basic home preparations and safety precautions as you’re trying to get everything together to get out the door. So as you prepare to leave for, what we presume is an idyllic – warm and sunny – destination, or even an extended long weekend, keep in mind the following tips.

Why It’s Important to Prepare your Home Before Vacation

You’ve been anticipating this moment for almost two years! You deserve to have a relaxing vacation without worry. And, when you know that you have done a thoughtful and thorough home preparation before you leave, it will go a long way to help ease your mind.

You’ll have enough to think about on your travels, the home you left shouldn’t be one of them. Good home preparation will ensure that your home is safe, sound, and secure while you’re away. After all, there are many surprises that are most definitely not welcome – like learning that your house is damaged by the weather or burglarized.

So, how do you properly prepare a home to be vacant for several months? To start with, there are three primary concerns when you leave your home for an extended period of time. They include protection against intruders or burglars, protection from pests, and the most likely during winter months, protection against Mother Nature – often completely unforgiving!

9 easy tips to prepare your house

  1. Stop your newspaper and mail delivery. Visit Canada Post for more information.
  2. Have a trusted neighbour keep an eye on your home – let your neighbours know you’re leaving.
  3. Unplug all of your small appliances – blender, toaster, space heaters, etc.
  4. Be sure to lock all of your windows and doors.
  5. Hire a service or a neighbourhood kid to shovel while you’re away – the walks and driveway. In the summer, the same goes for mowing the lawn.
  6. Just assume there aren’t any safe places to hide a key outside your home. Give it to a trusted neighbour.
  7. Set timers on the lights indoors and install a motion-activated sensor for the floodlights outside.
  8. Depending on how long you plan to be away, consider shutting off the water.
  9. Be wary of sharing your vacation activity on social media. Save sharing all those great photos until you get back.

BONUS TIP: Upon your return, you want to know that food left in your freezer is still safe for consumption. As part of your home preparation, freeze a container of water. Place a coin on top of the frozen water. When you get back back, if the coin is still sitting on top, you know your freezer has been in good operation while you’ve been away. If the coin is at the bottom, that means there’s likely been a power outage and your food may have defrosted at some point during your time away.

Home insurance considerations

Thoughtful home preparation can make all the difference between a fun, relaxing vacation and a stressful, or shortened, trip due to a crisis at home. But, the fact is, accidents still happen. That’s why it’s vital that you have the appropriate home insurance coverage.

Do you have questions about an upcoming trip and leaving your home unattended? Let us help provide you with peace of mind knowing your home and property are adequately covered. TALK TO US!

firesmart your home in the fall

Prepare for Wildfire Season 2022 – FireSmart Your Home This Fall!

Don’t tempt fate next summer during another crazy wildfire season. FireSmart your home this fall!

We may have survived another wildfire season, but we shouldn’t stop thinking about it just because winter is on the way. In fact, fall and winter are among the best and easiest times to get out ahead and prepare. There are a variety of measures you can take right now to ensure that you FireSmart your home well in advance of a wildfire crisis next year or beyond.

How easily a wildfire can spread

To grow and expand, from the surrounding trees to your home, wildfires need fuel. This includes the vegetation around your home – trees, shrubs, and other surrounding vegetation. It also includes the home itself, if it’s not protected. Some trees pose a greater danger than others. Coniferous trees, for example, such as fir and juniper, are highly flammable. If you have deciduous, or leafy, trees around your home they are far less flammable and don’t pose the same degree of danger.

Did you know? The wind, or even the energy of the fire, can cast embers and other burning debris up to two kilometres ahead of the wildfire’s path. The airborne embers easily fall and ignite the ground and any structures they land upon – including your home.

Just the embers can cause significant damage. And once a building starts to burn, it too can expel embers further onto the property and into your surrounding community.

How to FireSmart your home

Over the past thirty years or so, Natural Resources Canada (NRC) estimates that forest and wildfires have destroyed approximately 2.5 million hectares (the equivalent to 6 million football fields) in Canada each year. The cost in fire suppression resources alone runs about $500 million to $1 billion per year.

That’s why it’s so very important to do what you can to protect your home and property. And when you FireSmart your home, you can increase your property’s fire resistance significantly, helping to reduce the likelihood of wildfire damage and loss.

Given the increasing number of destructive wildfires we can expect throughout BC and our region, there is a need for education. To help inform people about what they can do, FireSmart Canada offers a FREE online course. FireSmart 101 is only one hour of your time and provides a good introduction to the program. It shows us how homeowners and communities can take steps to protect our homes.

Take the FREE FireSmart 101 course!

In addition to the course, read on for steps you can take this fall and winter to better prepare and protect your property well in advance of what could very well be another record-breaking season for wildfires.firesmart bc tips to firesmart your home

FireSmart your yard – 1.5 – 10 metres from your home

To FireSmart your yard, you begin to explore better choices of grass, plants, shrubs, and other landscaping materials such as mulch. You want to choose those plants and landscape materials that are fire-resistant.

When you have a FireSmart yard, it contains mainly low-profile, fire-resistant plants and shrubs with adequate space between them. Don’t keep wood debris close by and understand that mulch can provide an inviting starting place for a fire.

Try to maintain a ‘non-combustible zone’ around your house that is about 1.5-metres wide of rock, stone, or soil with few or, ideally, no plants or debris.

What are your surroundings?
Examine the vegetation that surrounds your home. Is it fire-resistant or flammable?

What makes a flammable plant?

  • aromatic needles or leaves
  • oils or resin
  • loose, papery or flaky bark
  • fine, dry, dead material accumulation

What makes a plant fire-resistant?

  • supple, moist leaves
  • sap that is water-like and has minimal odour
  • doesn’t accumulate a lot of dead or dry vegetation
  • minimal sap or resin material

Take a look at your grass? When you keep your lawn short and frequently mowed, it is fire-resistant – shorter than 10 centimetres – and is far less likely to burn with any significant intensity. Dry grass is more flammable, so during water season, keep it well watered. Where ever you can in your yard, reduce the need for irrigation – keep drought-resistant plants.

Do you have a lot of pine needles or bark mulch? Try to keep these materials no closer than 10 metres to your home. They’re very combustible. Rather, choose crushed rock or gravel mulch to reduce the risk of wildfire dramatically.

Also, keep your firewood well away from your home – it’s a serious fire hazard. Keep it tidy and free of bark bits and debris as much as possible.

Examine your trees and shrubs
We all love a treed yard – we want to be surrounded by nature. And a yard with trees can be a FireSmart yard! What kind of trees do you have?  Enjoy a green, lush and green yard that is also fire resistant. Here’s how:
Plant leafy (deciduous) trees, such as:

  • maple
  • poplar
  • aspen
  • birch
  • cottonwood
  • alder
  • cherry
  • ash

Our area is full of coniferous trees and so are many of our yards. But as much as possible, try to keep them no closer than 10 metres to your home. These trees include:

  • pine
  • fir
  • spruce
  • cedar

When coniferous trees ignite as close as 10 metres to your house, the flames but also simply the intensity of the heat can ignite your home.
Be sure that any coniferous trees are well-spaced – at least three metres apart. If a fire moves through the tops of trees, it can easily advance into neighbouring trees. As it moves, it intensifies.

Throughout the fall, clean up any debris thoroughly around your home – highly flammable materials such as branches, dry leaves, and twigs. Remove smaller coniferous trees as they’re highly combustible. In fact, they can offer a ‘ladder’ and allow a fire to move up to the tops of trees.

Prune your trees. Fire moves from the ground and climbs quickly. So also keep debris and dried material cleared from below them. It’s recommended that you prune coniferous trees while they’re dormant, in late winter. Remove any dead branches at the trunk of the tree.

Find out MORE about how you can prepare and protect your home BEFORE wildfire season. Learn how your home and your community can be FireSmart!

Whitlock Insurance - The End of Best Terms Pricing Strata Insurance in BC

The End of ‘Best Terms Pricing’ Strata Insurance in BC

In the BC insurance world, 2020 began with breaking news about crazy-high strata insurance premiums.

There was a little good news in 2020!

At the beginning of last year, the news finally broke about the outrageous strata insurance premiums for strata developments in BC. It was found that strata insurance and deductibles had been increasing significantly year-to-year. The increases were attributed to the challenge by insurers to make a profit in BC’s strata insurance market as a result of the rising costs of claims. What’s more, insurance providers considered the market as “high risk” due to steadily increasing property values as well as the excessive risk of earthquake.

In answer, the provincial government turned to the BC Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) – the agency that regulates the private insurance sector in British Columbia – to investigate the issue and help identify possible solutions.

By early summer, the BCFSA’s report found that a practice referred to as ‘best terms pricing’ was a significant contributor to the increase in premiums by, on average, 50 per cent in Metro Vancouver. The report that followed shortly thereafter identified that as many as 94 per cent of sample properties had been impacted negatively by best terms pricing.

According to Canadian Underwriter, best terms pricing refers to the final premium paid by owners of strata properties on an insurance subscription policy that is based on the highest of various insurance companies’ bids, even if the majority of insurance quotes are lower. Essentially, it’s a process where brokers gather quotes from various insurers, and when the insurer quotes on a strata property, it identifies the level of risk it’s prepared to accept along with a rate charge.

The quotes are conditional and based on all the insurers accepting the same terms. And, instead of the premium being set by the quote of each individual insurer, or by taking the average of all the quotes collected, under best terms pricing the final premium cost is set by the highest rate quoted by any of the insurers on the policy.

The amendment of Bill 14

Effective November 1, 2020, Bill 14 – 2020: Municipal Affairs and Housing Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2020, amends insurance-related provisions of the Strata Property Act (SPA) and the Financial Institutions Act introducing regulatory changes. It addresses best terms pricing and the rising costs of strata insurance.

The costly practice will officially end this month, January 2021.

As a result of the inquiry and the amendment of Bill 14, insurers and agents are required to provide one month’s (30 days) notice directly to strata corporations of their plans to not renew an insurance policy, or if they’re making any material changes to the policy. This notice assures that strata corporations will be properly notified in advance of any increases in premiums, giving them time to explore other options for insurance coverage.

Insurance providers are now also required to disclose the amount of their commission to strata corporations or risk a substantial penalty – potential fines up to $50,000 for a corporation or $25,000 for an individual agent. Additionally, referral fees paid to strata property managers from strata insurance transactions is entirely prohibited.

For more information on the Bill, read the full government press release.

The bottom line is the amendments to the Bill should now better provide strata corporations with the necessary information to make better decisions regarding their insurance needs.

Read more detailed information about Bill 14.

If you’d like more information about how these changes impact you, please contact us!

Whitlock off-road vehicle insurance

Off-Road Vehicle Insurance. Don’t Be Caught Uncovered!

We know how popular our BC outdoors are for enthusiasts of off-road vehicles (ORV). Just be sure you know before you go!

We can’t overstate the importance of purchasing of road vehicle insurance. When you’re out enjoying your off-road vehicles – includes your all-terrain vehicle, dirt bike, and snowmobile or motor sled – it’s vital that you have appropriate insurance coverage. There are too many ways things can go sideways off road to not properly protect yourself and your off-road vehicle. 

And, insurance can be confusing enough for your primary properties let alone the vehicles you use only occasionally off-road. To help get a better understanding, below are the essentials so that you can make informed decisions – and not jeopardize your fun off-road! 

ICBC Basic Insurance for off-road vehicles – plate and licence

Even if you’re simply loading or unloading your ORV in a parking lot, but certainly if you operate a registered ORV on or across a highway, you must:

  • license and insure the vehicle, and
  • attach a validation decal to the ORV number plate or number sticker plate

ICBC Basic insurance doesn’t apply:

  • to operation on the highway beyond what is permitted by regulation (see operation restrictions below), or
  • while operating on
    • Crown land
    • forest service roads
    • private property
    • other resource roads on Crown land, or highway that is not permitted, as outlined:

Operation restrictions

A vehicle that displays an ORV plate with a validation decal may be operated on a highway without an Operation Permit to:

  • cross the highway at an intersection controlled by a stop sign or traffic light, and be loaded/unloaded to or from another vehicle in a parking lot

Off-Road Program – Legal Age to operate an ATV, Dirt Bike or Snowmobile ON PUBLIC ROADS:

Prohibited use by Insured

c) while he or she is under the age of 16 years or under such other age as is prescribed by the law of the province in which he or she resides at the time this contract is made as being the minimum age at which a licence or permit to drive an automobile may be issued to him or her.*

Prohibited use by others

(i) unless that person is for the time being either authorized by law or qualified to drive or operate the automobile, or

(ii) while that person is under the age of 16 years or under such other age as is prescribed by the law of the province in which he or she resides at the time this contract is made as being the minimum age at which a licence or permit to drive an automobile may be issued to him or her.*

*Page 6 of wording MGH571 Ed. 2811

For those who DO NOT have a valid Drivers License (any age) and who wish to operate your off-road vehicle OFF A PUBLIC HIGHWAY

7) It is understood and agreed that while the vehicle is being operated off a public highway the Insurer waives compliance with that portion of the Statutory Condition dealing with prohibited uses which prohibits the Insured from driving or operating the vehicle or permitting the use of the vehicle when the operator is not authorized by law or qualified to drive the vehicle or while he is under the age prescribed by law for the operation of a vehicle on a highway

Liability insurance

Did you know? If you operate your ATV or other ORV on a Forest Service Road or Crown land in British Columbia, it is required by law that you carry liability insurance. It’s also required that you carry liability insurance with your snowmobile if you cross a ploughed Forestry Road. 

Think you won’t be travelling BC Forestry Roads or Crown land? Think again! If you’re operating your ORV on road in the backcountry of BC, chances are almost guaranteed that your travels will include BC Forestry Roads as well as Crown land. Regulations set by the Ministry of Forests require you to carry registration and evidence that you have purchased liability insurance for your ORV.

Be warned, that if a Conservation Officer or the RCMP stops you, you’ll be asked to produce proof of liability insurance for your off-road vehicle – the fine can be $200.00 or more if you’re unable to do so. 

Liability insurance for your off-road vehicle provides vital coverage for you in the event of the unexpected – if you damage another person’s property or injure someone. Talk to your representative for liability coverage designed to meet the legal requirements for operating your ORV on B.C. Forest Service Roads. 

It is critical that you know that you’re off-road vehicles are NOT covered by your home policy. It’s not merely part of the contents of your garage, which are covered by your homeowner’s insurance. The policy for your home doesn’t cover vehicles, outside of only limited exceptions which DO NOT include ATV’s, side-by-sides, snowmobiles, and the like.

Belong to an ATV club or organization such as  ATV/BC? Have you successfully completed a relevant safety course? Be sure to ask for potential discounts associated with club membership or safety certifications. 

Accident protection

As a driver of a car or truck in British Columbia, your insurance coverage provides accident benefits coverage – if you happen to get into an accident, no matter whose fault, insurance covers injury and any associated costs. You can purchase similar coverage for an ORV – if you’re injured while riding, there is some accident protection.

ORV operators may also want to consider collision and comprehensive insurance to protect against theft. It’s an unfortunate fact that ORVs are vulnerable to both being stolen as well as accidents. 

Important considerations

As you think about your insurance, and before you talk to an insurance agent, there a couple of factors to be clear about: 

  • You must disclose how the vehicle will be used — exclusively recreation, farm or business use, for example.
  • Be sure to consider the value of your ORV. New models can qualify for cost coverage for its replacement. 

No doubt, you’ll have questions! Don’t be afraid to bring questions to your insurance representative. Insurance helps to provide preparedness and protection as well as peace of mind. And this includes the coverage of your off road vehicles.

Do you have a new, or new-to-you off-road vehicle you need to insure? We can help! Contact us today to discuss your insurance needs or get a FREE QUOTE!