Isolation. Curfews. Zoom calls. Children running amok all day while virtual school is within session. Coping with the worldwide coronavirus pandemic is enough to make you wish to take a cigarette, some pot, or vape pen. Perhaps all three.
Abstaining from lighting up while being cooped up the whole day – whether it be within the name of health, finances, or safety (remember exploding vapes?) – takes serious effort.
So if you're able to quash the urge over these stressful times, can't you be famous for your time and efforts? Say, in the form of a non-smoking discount out of your home insurance provider?
After all, smoking indoors is a bad idea. Fires started by smoking indoors is one of the leading causes of house fires. In Ontario, from 2009 to 2021, 27% of fatal fires were ignited by lit cigarettes or pipes, based on the province's fire marshal.
You'd think insurance providers would be providing non-smoking discounts left and right to prevent remote workers from accidentally burning their houses down. But that is not the case – also it doesn't look like it will likely be in the near future.
More concern over widespread damage than isolated losses
Fire is really a significant reason for loss for property insurance companies, up there using the number one reason for property insurance claims: water. But it is not the important thing driver of property insurance increases.
“Widespread damage may be the bigger concern rather than isolated losses,” says Elektra Hilton, director of operations for DirectRate.ca. Which includes water and weather-related catastrophes, for example forest fires.
Each insurance company bases its discounts on its target market and the historical data it's accumulated about this market. Some home insurance providers question policyholders regarding their smoking habits because their data show enough evidence to justify asking. Others might not since the data doesn't show that house fires brought on by smoking present a big risk for their business.
“In looking at our carrier suite,” says Hilton, “about 50% provide the non-smoking discount.”
Not yet enough data for those insurance companies to respond
Claims from misadventures at home, which insurance companies describe as “accidental damage,” have been receiving an upswing lately, according to Stefan Tirschler, product and underwriting manager at Square One Insurance in Vancouver.
If working at home truly is here for the long term, you can bet the insurance industry will adjust accordingly. After all, insurers need enough money coming in to pay claims.
Historically, though, insurance providers don't rush to respond to major events. The legalization of cannabis in 2021, for instance, raised similar questions regarding property insurance premiums, but homeowners didn't see knee-jerk rate changes.
“To our knowledge, most property insurance companies didn't raise rates because they didn't have data to warrant it,” says Tirschler.
While the majority of us seem like it has been dragging on for ages, to insurance providers, the pandemic continues to be very much a current event. Taking a look at data from the past year alone is simply too narrow a timeframe.
If any home insurance provider bakes an immediate and serious change, it may well be an overreaction, Tirschler adds. “The new normal is originating. We should be basing our decisions on what reality will look like after the pandemic is over.”
How long that will take, Tirschler says, relies upon how big the insurance company. Larger ones have more exposure and can sometimes accumulate data in-house faster than smaller companies can.
But if you are still dragging yourself outside to smoke in this frozen hellscape and wondering to yourself “Where's my discount?”, it might be worth talking to your house insurance carrier.