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How does smoking affect your insurance premiums?

Hands holding broken cigarette

When you shop for home insurance, you’ll be asked a handful of questions-the answers to which will determine the amount you pay for your policy. Some of the questions will be about your home; others will be about the people who live in it.

One question you will likely be asked is whether or not there is a smoker living in your household.  Your smoking status, and that of the other people you live with, is more than just an inquiry into your health; smokers are actually more likely to have a structural fire than non-smokers.

In fact, improperly extinguished cigarettes are one of the leading causes of structural fires. Furthermore, in fatal, preventable house fires, the #1 ignition source is smoking materials, such as cigarettes and pipes and they accounted for 25% of all fatal fires making them the leading cause of fatal fire ignition, above cooking equipment, matches and lighters, and electrical fires. As a result, smoking or living with a smoker can affect your insurance premium.

Despite this data and mass communications of the adverse health effects of smoking, both Newfoundland and Nova Scotia have a higher than average percentage of people who smoke daily or occasionally. It’s little wonder, then, that insurance providers are concerned about insuring smokers; particularly here in Atlantic Canada.

It’s difficult to estimate just how much smoking will affect your rate, but some experts estimate that it can inflate your premium by as much as 20%. So that’s another reason perhaps to consider kicking that habit!

Instead of penalizing those who smoke, insurance companies give discounts to individuals who don’t smoke and who live in smoker free households. However, it is important to note that when an insurance company asks if you smoke, it encompasses much more than cigarettes. Insurers group all of the following under the term smoking:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Joints
  • Bongs
  • Pipes
  • Vapes

If you, or someone you live with, uses any of these products in or on the property, you (they) are considered a smoker and do not qualify for a non-smoker’s discount.

Some people might say, “what your insurance company doesn’t know won’t hurt them.” Not quite.  If you are a smoker, honesty is the best policy. Misrepresenting your smoking habits to your insurer can give them grounds to invalidate your policy in the case of a fire.

You are also responsible for updating your broker or insurance company on any changes during the policy’s duration. For example, if you apply for home insurance while you do not smoke, then a few months into the policy, you pick up smoking you do need to edit your coverage and let your broker know.  And if you recently quit, make sure to ring up your broker and let them know.  Some savings might be available!

Remember, it’s always better to be transparent about your lifestyle, even if it means paying a higher premium. If you would like more information on potential home insurance discounts, or if you have any questions on your home or auto insurance, please contact Munn Insurance toll free at 1-855-726-8627 today.

7 Tips for Hiring a Snow Removal Contractor For Your Commercial Property

Plow clearing snowy road

Winter is in full swing. The snow has arrived. Frigid temperatures are making parking lots and walk ways icy. There’s no point ignoring it, we are in snow removal season!

Removing snow from your property can be an unwelcome chore and an actual health risk for some. Additionally, snow removal takes time and time is something that is in short supply these days; particularly for hard-working business owners. Nevertheless, as a business owner, it is your responsibility to keep your property clear of snow, ice and other hazards.

Many business owners decide to hire a third-party snow removal contractor to help keep their properties free of ice and snow. There are many companies providing snow removal services, so how do you know the company you’re looking to hire is going to be able to show up when they snow begins to fall? Will they be able to stay on top of your snow problems and keep your parking lots clear and safe? Do they have experience? Do they have the equipment? And most importantly do they have insurance?

If you’re looking to hire snow plowing and snow removal services for your commercial property in Atlantic Canada this article will help. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Don’t be afraid to get multiple quotes — Snow removal is a significant annual cost for any commercial property so shopping for the best deal is at the top of every property owners mind.  Don’t be afraid to get multiple quotes for snow removal but remember when comparing them that you should be comparing apples to apples. Do they use the same equipment?  Do they offer the same or better response times? Do they have a good reputation? There are obvious reasons one company might charge more (or less) than another, just don’t be lured by the cheapest snow removal company you can find, they might not be the most reliable, let alone the best.
  • Your snow removal needs are unique. Every parking lot or commercial property is different. They are different shapes with different layouts so it’s important your contractor come out and take a look before giving an accurate estimate. You might not need as much maintenance as another client or maybe you need more. Your property might have geographic issues we need to contend with such as small hills, steep terrain, trees, landscaping and more. The contractor won’t know until they’ve assessed the property and listened to you on how you’d like your snow removal to be handled.
  • Know what equipment they are using on your property. There are a lot of companies running around with a truck mounted plow and a couple of guys with shovels. That may be totally fine for you. Or maybe that’s not enough to stay on top of your snow removal needs as a commercial customer. Sometimes those smaller or inexperienced operations are exactly the type of snow removal companies that can cause problems for a business owner. Make sure the snow removal company you plan to hire has, or has access to, the equipment needed to efficiently handle and remove the snow from your property.
  • Understand their response times. Having your snow removal contractor show up a few days after the snow falls isn’t going to be much help if you own a business. Your parking lots and walk ways need to be cleared quickly and frequently during periods of heavy snow fall. While it may not be reasonable to expect any snow removal company to arrive as the first snow falls, it is fair to work out in advance when they can be expected following light snow or after a larger blizzard.
  • Snow plowing or snow removal. This really depends on the size and shape of your property. If your parking lot is never full maybe you may have an area set aside for snow to be piled up. If so, you can save yourself some money by not having to hire out the removal of the snow. Some property owners just don’t have the available space so any snow must be cleared and then hauled away for disposal somewhere else.
  • Figure out cost and pricing upfront. This is an important question to ask up-front. Don’t just make assumptions. Do you pay up-front? Is there a monthly retainer?  IS the price set by the amount of snow? Do they charge by the hour? Will rates change part way through the season? These are all questions you should be asking. The actual cost for your snow removal will depend on the size of your property and your specific needs. It will also depend on what equipment is needed.
  • Make sure they have insurance. This is important. If your snow clearing contractor does not carry insurance and an accident occurs, you and your business might be held liable. You should require a certificate of insurance proving that they carry General Commercial Liability (CGL) Insurance. This will provide coverage in case an accident occurs as a result of the snow removal process (i.e., hitting a parked car) or after the service is done (i.e. a slip and fall). If they don’t have this insurance or tell you it isn’t necessary, it would be smart to check with another contractor. Please note, landscaping insurance DOES NOT cover snow removal services. You should also be aware that hiring a snow removal service does not absolve you of liability. As the business owner, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that your property and premises are safe. If the contractor you hire provides poor service or does not show up at all, you could be liable for any injury resulting from the adverse weather conditions. So, make sure you pick a company that you trust and can rely on.

Like any hiring decision, it is wise to do a little background check before signing a contract. We recommend that you request references from the contractor’s current clients to ensure you are hiring a reliable, trustworthy company. Check to see how they look in relation to the seven points above. Ask them if the contractor is timely and does a good job at clearing and salting their property. Ask them if their needs are similar to yours. Ask about pricing. And make sure you ask them if the contractor has insurance coverage.

Once you hire the contractor and they get to work, as an extra layer of safety, we suggest keeping a logbook indicating the time of snow, the amount of snow that has fallen, the time of snow clearing and whether or not the property was salted. This logbook will help you manage your contact with the snow clearers, provide concise cocumention and be evidence of proactive risk management if a claim is ever made.

If you have any questions about what coverage you should require from your third-party snow clearer or how to reduce your risk, please contact our commercial insurance experts at 709-726-4498.