Working from home? Check your insurance policy
Every home insurance policy is different so contact your provider, expert says
There are still some grey areas when it comes to insurance coverage for employees who are now doing their jobs from home.
Many workers have temporarily set up their office space in their homes, as their employers deal with public health directives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it could be like this for another month or two, possibly longer.
"It's a situation that we've never been in before," says Lisla Beaton, director of claims for Cambrian Insurance in Sudbury.
"We've never had everybody working from home like we do."
Every home insurance policy is different and has different coverage.
Most policies have exclusions which state there is not a business operating out of the home. That definition of a business could include workers who are doing their job for their employer.
"You're operating the business of your job from your home, so yes, it could still be conceived as a business," Beaton said.
However, she adds that insurers have currently eased up on the rule.
"Many insurance companies and everybody right at the moment has done it [moved work to home] en masse, that the insurance companies are probably going to be a little more lenient on that."
However, Beaton does recommend informing your insurance company of the temporary change to avoid the provider denying a claim in the future, or at least inquiring as to what they're doing with other clients in the same boat.
"I'm not sure the insurance company would want an endorsement for everybody to say: 'This is now what we're doing,'" she said.
That endorsement for coverage to operate a business out of a home is roughly an additional $20, but differs depending on the provider.
"It's not a lot of money to add that extra liability coverage to your policy," she said.
This is why Beaton believes not every insurance company will be making changes — even if temporary, because they'd have to add endorsements to everyone's policy.
Business property at home
Home insurance policies have limits on business property, like a laptop, if there's a claim made for lost or stolen items.
For insured losses for business property, Beaton says the limit is usually somewhere around $5,000, and it's only while on your property (home).
"It has to be stolen from your premises, so if you were out making a call and you brought it with you, and someone stole it out of your car it would not be covered," she said.
It's also a good idea to check with your employer to find out if their insurance covers at-home work, as well as equipment that's been moved from work to home.
"There's all sorts of little grey areas we have here," Beaton said, referring to the current situation.
[Insurance] is a contract and the wordings are very complicated. People don't know or understand what they are, so basically you need to phone and ask.- Lisla Beaton, Director of Claims, Cambrian Insurance
"Every insurance company is different. It behooves you to call your broker or your agent and find out how your exact company is dealing with [the COVID-19 pandemic]," she said.
Once the pandemic is over and someone decides to permanently work from their home, Beaton suggests adding an extension called 'incidental office use' to their home insurance policy.
"It increases or extends the liability to cover the operation of that business in your home."
"Insurance is very complicated. It's a contract and the wordings are very complicated," Beaton said.
"People don't know or understand what they are, so basically you need to phone and ask and review."
Reducing car insurance
Beaton notes that some people might also qualify for a rebate on their car insurance, if they're working from home and no longer driving the car to the office.
She says just because you're not using your vehicle doesn't mean you can get your insurance coverage reduced or stopped.
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"If you have your vehicle leased or you still have a lien on your vehicle some insurance companies are actually asking for confirmation from the leasor or the lienholder that you have permission to reduce the coverage because they have an interest in the vehicle as well."
"They want to make sure that it is protected at all times — they don't want to lose their money."
Some insurance companies have also made changes to help seasonal property owners who can't visit their camp or cottage because of travel restrictions.
Paying the bills
"We know Canadians are navigating a new world with changes occurring rapidly within our communities and beyond," says Don Forgeron, the president and CEO of the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).
"This is an incredibly challenging and uncertain time for many Canadians, and insurers want to help alleviate some of the financial burden for the most vulnerable."
The IBC says insurance companies have already reached out to their clients, acknowledging that this may be a difficult time for some to make payments, and have offered options.
They are working with clients on a one-on-one basis.