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5 Tips to Prepare and Stay Safe in The Winter Driving Season - Do you pass the test?


We all wish summer would last forever, especially in provinces where the temperature drops below zero and we face heavy snowfall for several months out of the year. If you have lived in Quebec, you know what it is to have to battle the snow on the roads.


Here are 5 tips to help keep you safe and prepared for winter driving & a VIDEO Quiz.


1.    Don’t get left out in the cold! Check your roadside assistance plan.


Most new vehicles now come with roadside assistance included in the new vehicle purchase. Sometimes the roadside assistance can last years, and is easily something we take for granted as new vehicle owners. However, in some cases it expires based on the use of the car, meaning the number of kilometers – this could reduce your automatic coverage or make it expire long before you realize.

So the first step to ensuring you have a safe winter season is to prepare for emergencies by contacting your roadside assistance provider and making sure your coverage is in place.

If it is not, Aviva Canada and Intact insurance both offer special deals with their insurance policies for roadside assistance.

CAA also has alliances with some insurance companies which can get you the coverage for free (for new clients) and offer a discount on insurance for others.

So make sure  you are covered so that if you get stranded on the side of the road, you’ll have help and spend as little time as possible out in the cold.


2.    Winter Tires – Why  are they important?


According to Transports Quebec  a study in 2005 showed that 38% of accidents that occurred on the road involved at least one vehicle with all season tires, vs. winter tires.  Therefore since 2008, in Quebec, it is a law to equip your vehicle with Winter tires from December 15th to March 15th – the winter driving season. Want more info on Winter Tires? Check out this post where I cover all the details.


3.    Avoid Gas-Line Freeze up - Keep your Gas tank At Least Half Full.


According to CAA, keeping your gas tank at least half full reduces condensation that can cause gas line freeze up. Besides preventing this inconvenient situation, it also assures you always have enough gas to get where you are going and once again, you’ll never get stuck in the cold. During the winter driving season it is not unusual to get stuck in traffic for hours, or use extra gas to get out of a snow bank – stay prepared.



4.    Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit & Get Winter Tools for Your Car


Keep a roadside emergency kit in the car so that if you do run into trouble you are prepared. Some items to include:
•    A Bag of sand – incase you get stuck in the snow
•    Shovel and Windshield Scraper
•    Extra Windshield washer fluid that is made for below zero temperatures
•    A Blanket
•    A Flashlight or flashing light, Matches, Batteries for the flashlight, A First Aid Kit, A Cell Phone Charger

Note that some stores sell some great emergency roadside kits that even include items that can fill your tires with air, or have flashing lights to use  if you’re stalled. It’s always a good idea to check the options at your local supply stores.


5.    Vehicle Maintenance Winter Checklist  - Keep Your Car Running In Winter!

The following items should be verified because their functioning will directly affect your ability to drive in wintery conditions.

  • Windshield - Snall cracks or nicks in the windshield can often spread or get worse in the cold weather.

Did you know some insurance companies will repair your glass for free if there is a small chip or crack in it?

If you have a small nick or chip in the glass or a hair line crack, call your insurance to see if they offer this special coverage on your policy- you may be surprisd to find out they will take care of it for you with no deductible or consequence if it is your first incident!

  • Winter wipe blades & Windshield fluid - make sure they are winter ready - a clear windshield will help you significantly when weather conditions are bad
  • Vehicle lights - make sure they are all working properly
  • Tread on tires
  • Check the battery
  • Check your antifreeze level
  • Also verify critical winter car functions like the thermostat, heater, brakes and defroster.

Best Driving Practices in Winter to Stay Safe : Video QUIZ

Think you’re ready for safe winter driving, check out this awesome video for a True or False Quiz!

That's my list, what are your best tips for winter driving safety?

 

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5 Tips For Closing Your Cottage For The Winter

Winterizing - Closing up your cottage - Quebec - Ontario for the winter

Fall is the most beautiful time of year and the perfect season to spend a long weekend in the country. I was away just last weekend and caught some incredible scenery!
In Montreal, Ontario and Quebec, we are lucky to live in picturesque regions that truly spoil us this time of year. With a diversity of areas to enjoy this natural beauty, many locals own cottages or cabins where they can enjoy the summer months into the fall.

How do You Protect Your Seasonal Home or Cottage?

Some cottages are winterized, however many are not. This weekend marks Thanksgiving in Canada, a perfect time to take advantage of the natural beauty in the Quebec and Ontario countryside on our last long weekend of the year!

Quebec and Ontario Tips for closing down the cottage for the winter - beautiful chalets

For many seasonal cottage owners, this weekend also marks the date for the closing of the cottage for the winter season. 

The Most Common Causes Of Damage To Cottages

Every spring, people return to their cottage with the hopes that there is no damage, however statistics would indicate that the top claims for cottages usually include water or wind damage caused during the winter or early spring months.

5 Tips For Closing Up Your Cottage

Here are some tips to help keep the cottage safe during the winter months while you are away:

1.    Avoid Water Damage:

Any time you leave your home during months that temperatures will drop close to zero Celsius or below, you should take precautions to avoid water damage. *

Did you know that almost 50% home claims paid in Canada this past year were related to some sort of water damage

The best way to avoid water damage is to drain the pluming and turn off the water so the pipes don’t freeze. 

•    Shut off the main water valve and any water supply valves like for example on a toilet, dishwasher or washing machine.

FamilyHandyman.com has some awesome detailed explanations on how to do this, if you want more details, you can check them out here.

2. If you have a sump pump, check it to make sure it is working.

Often the water will rise in the spring when the snow melts. If you will not be at the cottage when this starts to happen it is critical to make sure you have left everything ready to go. 3. Bring in all your décor and other items like lawn chairs, boats and BBQ’s from the garden and property. These items will preserve better indoors and you will also avoid the possibility of them flying off causing damage to property or others in heavy winter storms, or fall and spring winds.

Did you know that there are 80 confirmed and unconfirmed tornados that touch down in Canada each year? Most occurring in southern Ontario, the southern Prairies and southern Quebec? Learn more here.

How to take care of your wood stove and tips to close the cottage for the winter Photo Copyright Mila Araujo 2013

4. Close the flue or block the stove pipes on your fireplace, chimneys or woodstoves.

These make good places for animals to get into your home, or make nests in. This may also be a good time to have your chimney cleaned, the build up within a chimney can cause chimney fires and if left for the winter, you may have a nasty surprise in the spring when you go to use them again. 

If you have a BBQ make sure you disconnect the propane tank and store it in an appropriate location out of direct sunlight – you may want to refer to your BBQ manual for specific details for your tank. Remember that the BBQ tank carries contents that are explosive – handle this with care.

 

5.    Trim any branches hanging over the cottage, and inspect the roof and gutters to make sure there are no areas that will be vulnerable.

Weight of snow and ice in various circumstances, or blocked up drainage systems can create significant damage while you are away. Prevention is your best option. Clean out eaves troughs. Make sure they are clear of leaves and that the drainage is directed at least several feet from your home (the distance depends on the slope of the land and specifics of your property, however we recommend you look into this to avoid any issues with water damage).

How do you prepare the cottage for winter?

Everyone has specific lists of how they lock up their cottage for the winter, after you’ve enjoyed your final weekend away, we hope these tips help keep your property safe so that next year when you open the cottage, you’re ready to enjoy a  glorious spring!

That’s my list – what’s on yours?

 

*Please note that insurance coverage varies from state to state or province to province, the information in this article and on this site is given to serve as a information to empower consumers, and as a bouncing board to lead to a discussion with a licensed broker or agent that can review your specific needs and explain various coverage options to you. Every insurance company has their own policy wording, in all cases the policy wording will take precedence over any blog discussions or examples. Empower yourself with information, so you know the questions to ask, and take charge of your insurance to save money!

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Montreal, Where Pot Holes Have a Home - Your Comprehensive Guide

<script type="text/javascript" src="https://d1xnn692s7u6t6.cloudfront.net/widget.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">(function k(){window.$SendToKindle&&window.$SendToKindle.Widget?$SendToKindle.Widget.init({}):setTimeout(k,500);})();</script><div style="display:inline-block;padding:3px;cursor:pointer;font-size:18px;font-family:Arial;white-space:nowrap;line-height:1;border-radius:3px;border:#ccc thin solid;color:black;background:transparent url('https://d1xnn692s7u6t6.cloudfront.net/button-gradient.png') repeat-x;background-size:contain;"><img style="vertical-align:middle;margin:0;padding:0;border:none;" src="https://d1xnn692s7u6t6.cloudfront.net/white-25.png" /><span style="vertical-align:middle;margin-left:3px;">Send to Kindle</span></div>Montreal is a beautiful city, it captures many of the most desirable qualities of any city on the planet, from a rich cultural diversity to our festivals or the way we honor and celebrate nature in our green spaces and outdoor activities. According to Tourisme Montreal's latest report, Montreal received approximately 7.5 million tourists/visitors from abroad, representing 2.3 billion dollars in revenue.

This is without a doubt a spectacular city to visit and if you have not been here, then make some plans, because you are sure to have an amazing stay!  According to Wikipedia it's our French heritage that sets our beautiful city aside from many other North American tourist destinations. We have so many wonderful qualities as a city - if you want to know some awesome details that make Montreal a wonderful place to visit and live, you can check out this post.

There is however one thing that Montreal is known for that is not as appealing, and that's our outrageous pot holes! Every spring, as we prepare for the numerous festivals and international events, like the Jazz Festival, the Grand Prix, and hundreds of other events (including the #140confMTL - sponsored by Ogilvy & Ogilvy) the attention of the city gets distracted as we dodge obstacles in our daily lives - the Pot Holes!

Pot Holes in Montreal A beautiful City with a few road hazards from the Montreal Gazette

 

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Let's talk about Rot and Mold - Is it Insurance to the rescue or are you out of luck?

One of the most difficult things we face as brokers is when a client calls us for help with a situation or perceived emergency, and we have to tell them something is not covered.

In life, we all like to know that someone has our back. When something goes wrong there's someone there to help us. 

Your insurance policy becomes that "someone" when something sudden and accidental happens to your home, car or other insured property. 

When you deal with a broker, the expectation to have someone who will be responsive and help is even higher. You are not only dealing with an insurance company, you're dealing with a trusted advisor, someone who has the experience to know how to help you when you have an emergency. Unfortunately, in some cases,  like when dealing with rot or mold, or the natural deterioration that takes place over time,  even your insurance will not respond.

You call your representative, you've suddenly become aware of a horrible problem - mold in the walls, or rot under the floor...you think you will have some support - but brokers aren't miracle workers. All we can do is advise you what your policy covers. In any policy that I know of, rot and mold is not covered.

Why?

Rot and Mold fall under exclusions in your policy wording.

There are references in most insurance contracts to items that are not insured.  The nature of insurance is to protect you from sudden and accidental loss. If you think about the length of time it takes for rot and mold to take hold, neither of these things are sudden and although they may result from an accident, in the majority of cases, with few exceptions, they result from unattended repair over time.  Most policies contain an exclusion that reads somewhat like this:

"We do not insure water damage caused by continuous or repeated discharge or overflow of water whether the insured was aware of such discharge or not"

or/and

"We do not insure gradual damage caused by wear and tear, gradual deterioration, rust, corrosion, dampness, wet or dry rot, fungi or spores OR repeated damage to property."

It's a tall list of things that can go wrong and not be covered, but these are all important considerations for any homeowner. (Note that this is but two areas of a long list of exclusions on all homeowner policies - it is important to find out what your contract lists specifically).

What can you do to protect yourself?

Example of a stain appearing on a floor - indicative of rot.You need to start keeping your eyes open for the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle signs of trouble.

In every case I have ever handled where we see instances of  Rot and Mold, two things happen.

1. The homeowner is shocked and distressed, suddenly hit with overwhelming cost, and the surprise that its not insurable. They can not believe the level of damage hidden in the walls or floors. They usually don't feel they had any indication of the nature of the problem.

 

 

Under the floor boards2. We usually send people in to investigate the loss - its part of the process in making a claim.  When we look at pictures taken during this investigation, we usually clearly see the signs were there. Rot 2 Yet individuals did not ever notice them. I think it is because in the busy lives we lead, we just don't have the time to focus in on these things, we hear a drip, we don't imagine its destroying our outer walls, or our floors. We just think it's a drip. We, as individuals need to start paying closer attention.

 

 

What can you do?

It's all in the details, become aware of what is going on in your home. Realize that anything out of the ordinary can point to something serious. Stop things in their tracks while they are still small problems. You never know what is lurking underneath the surface.

 

Some water damage advice to help control or prevent rot or mold:

  • If an area is damp, make sure you install proper ventilation. Try and determine why the area is damp, think about the effects that continuous dampness could have and be proactive. Money is tight everywhere, no one wants to take on added expense, but in reality the long term effects of not responding to situations like these are far costlier on all levels and also can put your health and safety at risk. Monitor the humidity levels in your home, between 30% and 50% is a fair range.
  • When materials in your home start to change color, or wood or paint start to buckle - this is not just something that's happening for no reason. Water is often the cause.
  •  If you have water damage, attend to fixing the source of the problem quickly.  According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, some types of mold can grow in as little as 24 hours.
  • If you see damage somewhere that doesn't seem to be remotely associated with a source of water - don't disregard this - be concerned.  Investigate what is happening before damage starts to spread. If you catch something right away, it might be covered by your insurance because it will never get to the point of being repeated, or gradual. Seek professional advice.
  • When you are purchasing a new home, make sure that you hire a qualified and experienced building inspector to take humidity tests of the walls at the property. We have seen several cases first hand where inspectors simply did not investigate far enough and people who have purchased new homes end up with massive reconstructions due to hidden rot and mold issues. This is the worst kind of case, when the person affected wasn't even in a position to know about the issues, and yet they get stuck with the bill.  I have a client right now who is one year into the repair work and paying thousands of dollars in insurance simply because they did not detect the problem prior to purchase. Their inspector let them down, but they are the ones stuck with the bill. Invest in a thorough home inspection, I can not tell you enough how important it is to uncover things before you make your purchase.

This is the best we can do for you as brokers on this issue: offer you advice, explain what your policy covers or excludes and try and help you be proactive in prevention. Anything beyond that is outside our mandate and ability. 

When there is an injustice on the insurance company's side - we will go to bat for you. If you need help settling a claim, and you need someone on your side - that's what we are here for. We do what we can within the limits of coverage of the insurance contract. Unfortunately, on the issue of things that are not covered even with the best broker, you will not be able to receive coverage for something that is excluded from the contract.

Working together to be proactive, that's the best advice we can give. With water damages on the rise, I am sure we have all heard of issues, what has your experience been?

What about those of you who have had a claim denied, did you think your broker let you down when they had to explain the insurer denying a claim?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter Tires - Why Bother?

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Winter road
A couple of years ago the Quebec Government in Canada passed a law about winter tires:  From December 15th to March 15th, ALL tires mounted on a  passenger vehicle  must be specifically designed for winter driving.  

At the time, I , like many people who live in colder climates had used All Seasons for years. I didn't really think there was an issue, after all, years of driving with All Seasons, and no problems, right?

10am in a snowstormI can tell you from experience, and as someone who went into it very annoyed at the inconvenience of changing tires twice a year - it is well worth it.  I am a pretty strong winter driver, even on my previous All Seasons I always knew how to adjust my driving to deal with any conditions.  Safety was always important to me, yet I had never bothered with winter tires until the law passed.

Today,  I can't even imagine driving without them. You will feel safer, you will have better control of the road, you will be protecting yourself and your family so much better.

Our climate is changing, we are seeing major increases in the amounts of snow we see and ice storms.  When you drive in snow storms or in icy conditions, do you see people unable to manage the roads, stuck or struggling, driving at a turtles pace simply because they can't get their vehicle to move forward in the slush, snow and ice?  Or maybe, this person is you?

Don't end up on the side of the road because you are having problems controlling your vehicle.

Off the road - Winter TiresWherever you are, if you drive in a region that has snowfall or sees temperature drops, don't wait for it to become a regulation or mandated by law.  

Get your winter tires now, it will extend the life of your all seasons/summer tires, it will give you the control that you need on the road - beyond what you have ever experienced with All Seasons.  It will keep you on track.

Its an investment in your safety. Your regular tires will last twice as long, since they will be used in the conditions they were built for.  

I found the video below from the Insurance Bureau of Canada which shows road tests on an ice skating rink - really interesting.  Hope it helps convince any of you out there who don't see the value in snow tires to give it a second thought.

English: Severe snow rating symbol for car tiresImage via Wikipedia

 

How do you know a winter tire ?

  • Tires on which one of the following inscriptions appears: Alaska | Arctic | A/T or AT | Blizzard | Ice | LT | Nordic
  • Snow (but not Mud & Snow) | Stud | Ultratraction | Winter
  • Tires on which the mountain and snowflake icon appears.

From an insurance perspective, we are still seeing claims where people were driving without winter tires. At this time, the insurers are handling these case by case. From our experience with our insurers, which include Aviva, Chubb, Missisquoi, Guarantee Company of North America , and Intact, we have not seen any claims denied due to the violation of the law which requires winter tires.  However, in Quebec, it is a law and so everyone here should have them installed. We advise all our clients to have them installed and respect the law.

 

A real driver is interested in performance, equip your vehicle for winter, you'll enjoy the ride, you'll have better control and everyone will be safer.

Leave the skating on ice or sliding down slippery slopes for outdoor sports and gain control of the road.

Have you installed your winter tires yet? What's your experience? Please share in the comments below and join the conversation!

Screen Captures

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Water - Vital to life, but a potential hazard to your home.

Nothing beats a fresh glass of cool water after a work out, or on a hot summer's day.

Westmount water stream park quebec

Water is key to our vitality, and yet, when it comes to home insurance and property damage, water is a whole other issue.

Water gets into our homes and apartments from various sources: appliances, leaks in pipes, storms, weight of snow, and more. When the temperatures start to drop, water freezes bringing more opportunity for damage to our homes in the heating season.

We can all think of various examples of situations where water damage can occur, but recently  we have noticed more and more calls coming in for one very specific water related issue : Mold.

Mold thrives in humid places, it likes to hide in darkness - and because of this, very often people may not notice it for some time.

A dark hallway wood antique westmount quebec

Mold is dangerous for your health. Once mold has developed, it is extremely difficult to treat and get rid of and very costly.

Did you know that Mold damage is not covered by insurance?  Many people think that damage from mold is covered because it originates (usually) with a humidity or water leakage problem. However, it is important for you to note that insurance is for sudden and accidental losses - and there is nothing sudden about mold. In order for mold to grow, it must have humidity, but also time. Gradual damage is not covered by most insurers. Overall, over the past several years, it is also now a specified exclusion with most insurance companies - for all of the above reasons.

How can you avoid this issue?

When you notice a leak or damage in your home that is caused by water, don't just treat the leak, this wont remove the water from the materials around it. Fixing the leak or damage won't remove the humidity - mold needs this humidity to thrive. Always remember to dry out any areas effected by water damage or leakage. If you are inclined to make a claim for something, the sudden or accidental discharge of water is something that may be covered depending on the source and your insurance company.

Get some advice from a professional as soon as you see signs of water.  Sometimes we may repair the broken pipe and not realize that water has sunk down the walls, or soaked into floor boards.  This is where mold will find an opportunity and unfortunately due to the nature of mold itself  (it is is not sudden or accidental), you will not be covered.

We had a case recently of a client who purchased a new home. They paid quite a bit of money to have the home inspected, and assumed everything was verified. Getting a clean bill of health on the home, they proceeded with the purchase. Not long after taking possession, they discovered dampness on one of the inside walls of the home. They contacted the vendor, and the vendor

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Ready for Takeoff? Your Vacation Checklist: Savings & Safety Tips & Tricks.


Getting ready to go on vacation is exciting! So many things to think about: what to pack, where to stay, what you will do while you're away... Your mind is on your trip and not at home.

Traveling Vacation Take off Preparation for Travel Savings

Here are some  Safety Tips, Prevention Tips and Cost Saving Tips,  so you not only get the most out of your vacation, but you make sure the home base is safe and secure for your return.

 

If you are renting a car, you can also check out my recent post on Rental Car Insurance for some additional cost saving tips and tricks to keep you covered with the least additional expense.

 What special precautions do you take before going away?

Any additional ideas of what we can do to keep our homes safe while we are away?