Aging-in-place is a growing trend and has many benefits for the individual, their families as well as our overburdened health and social systems. However, aging-in-place is not a panacea. As more and more frail elderly individuals remain in their homes, supported by home and community care agencies as well as family and friends, many new issues crop up. Home insurance can become one of those risks.
Home insurance is typically started and terminated by the home owner(s). Most often a policy is terminated when a person leaves their home permanently. However, for elderly people, temporary absences from the home can occur, sometimes due to admittance to an acute care hospital or even a rehabilitation facility. These temporary health care stays may mean that a home is left vacant for a period of time, increasing the possibility that home insurance coverage may be reduced or even terminated. The home owner may be unaware of this risk. Their intention to return home after their health recovers may not be sufficient to keep home insurance coverage intact. Some things to consider are:
- How often the condition of the home needs to be checked by an in-person visit. It may be as frequent as every 48 hours.
- How long the home can remain vacant before some or all of the coverage is lost. For example some policies will automatically discontinue perils coverage such as water damage after a 30 day vacancy.
- If the insurance company is suggesting that a vacancy permit be issued after 30 days, determine how long the new policy will be available, the monthly cost and the exact coverage. These policies can be expensive and limited in their coverage.
- If the length of hospital stay can be reasonably predicted, contact the insurance broker and discuss the possibility of continuing existing insurance coverage which would likely include most or all perils. This may be possible for only another 60 days or so but the broker may have other suggestions on how to protect the home and its contents.
- If valuables such as jewellery are removed from the home, confirm before moving them that insurance coverage is available at the new location.
- Consider a separate storage insurance policy if any items are placed into storage units.
- If someone moves into the home during the homeowner’s absence ensure that the existing insurance policy covers any lifestyle differences such as smoking, pets or a business operated from the home.
- Get the important information before a crisis arises:
- Whose names are on the policy?
- What company/broker insures this home?
- Where is a copy of the policy kept?
- What is the annual renewal date?