The recent flooding on Vancouver Island and strong winds throughout the South Coast have raised concerns about what insurance coverage people have for storm damage.

According to Heather Mack, director of government relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada for the Western and Pacific region, weather-related claims have been growing for years.

"There is most definitely a change in our weather patterns and insurers are sort of the canary in the coal mine here, because they are the first payers for a changing climate," she said. 

Mack said claims averaged about $200 million a year in the 1980sBut the number of claims has been exponentially growing — with more than a $1 billion of claims in 2010 and $3 billion last year. 

"There is most definitely a change in our weather patterns and insurers are sort of the canary in the coal mine here, because they are the first payers for a changing climate," she said. 

With a series of storms hitting the south coast of B.C. this week, here are some handy tips to know before you go to your insurance company. 

What if a tree or some debris falls on home during the storm?

Damage to homes caused by wind is typically covered, Mack says. This includes damage caused by trees and other debris. Behind the scenes, an insurance company might go after the liable party, be it a neighbour or the municipality, but regardless, you're covered.

Is there anything property owners should be doing proactively to get ready for extreme weather season?  

Home owners should take a look at their property and do some general pruning of branches and limbs that might tear off during the storm. In extreme and rare cases where it's determined you could have prevented a precariously hanging or diseased tree from falling on your home as opposed to an act of extreme weather, you might be liable for the damage.

What about debris cleanup?

Some insurance policies do cover clean up for debris, but it's not very common. If there's no structural damage to your home, removing fallen trees can cost thousands of dollars since that's not typically covered.

Is water damage covered by insurance?

There is no overland flood coverage in Canada. However, sewer back up is covered. In the case of extreme rainfall, if the municipal system is overwhelmed and backs up into your basement, then insurance might cover it if you have bought that type of a policy. This is a common claim in this type of severe weather. 

What about coverage for landslides?

You can get earthquake coverage, but landslides are a unique situation, high-risk event, so it's important to ask your insurer.

Any final advice?

People need to remember that unlike auto insurance, which is pretty standard, property insurance varies from company to company and house to house. Don't make assumptions. It's a legal contract and it's important to know both your rights and responsibilities. 

With files from Terry Donnelly