The Joys of Winter, and the Wonder of Insurance Policies

We all have an idyllic image of winter that we can call to mind in order to cope when our winter wonderland isn’t so wonderful, and the land is covered in white.

Let me build a picture for you.

A cozy log cabin, surrounded by fluffy white snow, icicles formed from the roof reflecting and glistening in the early afternoon sunshine. The light scent of wood-smoke floats in the air, and the taste of hot chocolate warms from the inside out. The inviting curve of the path up to the cabin, newly shoveled, leading up to the wood steps, and the welcoming glow of the glass paned front door. The white tipped evergreens stand as protective sentinels, their scent curling through the gentle breeze that flows lazily through the gaps in the trees.

Got it?

Now factor in reality. That freshly dug path leading to the cabin? All that shoveling uncovered a layer of ice, and now the path is a treacherous route to frozen wooden steps, where a single toe out of line means a fall, a broken hip, a concussion. The hot chocolate that was heated on the gas stove? The stove is ancient and the lines haven’t been checked since it was purchased. Instead of the scent of evergreens, there is the noxious stench of leaking gas from the rotted line. The icicles on the roof? A harbinger of the weight the roof must bear, and has borne for the fifty years the cabin has been standing. The roof bows, maybe doesn’t break, not yet, but it leaks tears of winter water in supplication before crashing down, ripping down walls and landing with a crash that reverberates through the trees. And, lest we think that our reality is complete, picture water gushing and forming icy rivers from a broken water main, covering all in its path with glass-like shards of cutting ice.

Overly dramatic? Maybe. On the other hand, I bet the people who have been evacuated from buildings just before the roof collapsed would disagree. The people who woke up on a Sunday morning to find their basements flooded because of a water main break, and who had to be towed in rafts from their homes, would likely disagree as well.

So how can we cope with living in our winter warzone? Well, if you’re a landlord, make sure that you meet the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, and ensure that the property you’re renting out is well maintained, structurally sound, and safe for your tenants to live in. Most landlords have property insurance, which covers damage to the building (not the contents of the building), so if you don’t have this type of insurance already, you may want to consider getting it. You may also want to consider liability insurance, which covers you if someone is injured on the property. You should also have a term about insurance in the lease, so that you and your tenant both understand which one of you is responsible for insuring the contents of the property.

If you’re a tenant, you can literally buy peace of mind. Go talk to an insurance broker and look into tenant insurance. Why? If there is a problem with the property, your landlord’s insurance will not cover your possessions. You must have your own insurance to cover your contents. You can also get liability insurance. If something were to happen and the property could not be lived in, some policies will cover your costs in finding other accommodations. You can choose the kind of insurance that you want, and what you want it to cover.

It is common for a lease to state that the tenant must have insurance. If the tenant does not have insurance, then the tenant is in breach of the lease. This means that if there is, for example, a leak in the roof, not only will the tenant have to pay to replace all of their things, they might also have to fight an eviction. Also, if a tenant is renting a condominium, the Condominium Bylaws may state that whoever is living in the property must have insurance. Remember, a tenant must obey the Bylaws, and even if a landlord wants to keep a tenant, the Board has the power to evict for the tenant for not obeying the Bylaws.

Until next time, don’t look up at the icicles as you’re walking under them; they’re like pigeons…

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