Fall is here and if you’re one of the million Canadians who head south every year, you might want to start packing your bags. Snow birds heading south for the winter need to remember to prepare your house for the snowstorms and freezing temperatures of our winter season.

When leaving your home, condominium, or apartment for more than 3 consecutive days during the normal heating season (this period of time may vary depending on the insurance company), your insurance will not pay for water damage caused by the freezing UNLESS you do one the following:

-Arrange for a competent person to enter your home daily to make sure the heat is maintained in order to avoid the possibility of pipes freezing. Better yet, you should consider having them enter every room to ensure no damage has occurred.

-Turn off the water supply coming into the home and bleed all the pipes, drains and appliances before you leave.

-Have your plumbing and heating systems connected to a monitored alarm station providing 24-hour service.

Here are some tips from us to help you prepare:

  1. Shut off your main water valve and drain your pipes
    When the temperature drops, water can freeze and split your pipes – leading to floods and mold. Shut off the water supply to your house at the source and emptying out the excess liquid. Flush your toilets to drain the tanks and add a little antifreeze to the leftover water to keep it from freezing and cracking the porcelain.
  2. Ask a family member or someone you trust to watch over your home
    Get your neighbour, family member or friend to pick up your mail, and shovel the walkway. They should also check the heating and furnace, as temperature changes.
  3. Contact your security company
    Update your contact information incase they need to contact you..
  4. Put your lights on a timer
    Plug one or more of your lamps into manual/electronic timers and program them to turn on and off in the evenings. You can also install an automatic security light in your yard to scare off intruders.
  5. Unplug your electronics and appliances
    Avoid dangerous power surges and big electricity bills by unplugging your TV, fridge, computer and other appliances. When plugged in, these things will keep drawing power, even if they are shut off.
  6. Empty out your fridge
    Toss, eat or donate any food or liquid that won’t look same when you return.
  7. Take pictures and make a list of your valuables
    If you haven’t done this already, now’s a great time to document your belongings. If you have a claim, this list will make it easier to repair or replace your things.
  8. Forward your mail – Cancel or defer your newspaper
    Sign up for a mail forwarding service with your local post office to stay up to date. We also recommend calling your bank or credit union and setting up e-statements or a temporary address.
  9. Contact your insurance broker
    Let them know what your plans are. They will explain the vacancy rules of your insurance policy, and tell you what to do to keep your policy active while you’re gone. (Some insurance policies will require that someone enters your home every 24 hours.) Other than that,  have a great time, enjoy the sun, wear sunblock and don’t forget your travel insurance!

Ask your broker about optional coverages you can add to your insurance policy. Added coverage will give you peace of mind, whether you are at home or on vacation.