We’ve all spent more time at home as a result of the pandemic, with each new wave of the virus necessitating a variety of restrictions and lifestyle changes. Canadians have also been working from home in record numbers, with some individuals making the move away from the office permanent. All of that extra time in our houses has led to an unexpected consequence for some families. The Ontario Fire Marshal recently reported that house fires were up by 50% in January 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. It also recorded twice as many fatalities.
There are a variety of factors behind these incidents, including smoking indoors and the increased use of space heaters in the winter, but unattended cooking is a leading cause of residential fires. With more people working remotely, home sick or out of work due to the pandemic, cooking at home (often while working and/or watching the kids) could be a reason for the increase.
Will more house fires lead to paying more for home insurance?
These statistics are troubling for a number of reasons, most notably the tragic loss of life. From a financial perspective, they may leave some people wondering if home insurance rates will go up at an already challenging time.
A notable increase in house fires would presumably result in an increase in claims, which could have a ripple effect within the insurance industry—similar to how fewer hours spent commuting to work resulted in lower auto insurance rates for some drivers.
Interestingly, none of the insurance specialists we spoke with reported seeing an impact from residential fires on home insurance rates to date. However, that doesn’t mean home insurance rates haven’t been impacted by the pandemic.
Insurance broker Peter John Van Dyk, partner at PV&V Insurance Centre in Burlington, Ont. and Meester Insurance Centre in Smithville, Ont., hasn’t seen a dramatic increase in either the frequency of fire-related claims or the severity of fire-related incidents over the course of the pandemic. He says flooding, hail and wind storms are more common issues—a sentiment that was echoed by several other professionals. “Weather is still a huge factor in insurance claims,” Van Dyk says.
An increase in fire incidents may not be impacting the cost of home insurance at this time, but rates are definitely going up because of the pandemic.