You and Your Home

House logo

INSURANCE

What is tenant or homeowner insurance?

When you rent an apartment or a house you are a tenant. In certain provinces and territories, as a tenant, if your belongings are damaged or destroyed because of a problem in the apartment or the house, you are responsible for replacing your damaged property. Buying tenants’ insurance covers many of the costs of damaged household goods in rental situations.

If you buy a home, you may need to obtain standard homeowners’ insurance to protect you in case the home is damaged or destroyed. In some provinces this type of insurance is required by law. In some other provinces where it is not required by law, your bank may require it when lending money to you to buy a home. Whether or not standard homeowners’ insurance is required by law, it is always recommended to carry such insurance. Homeowners’ insurance usually also covers your losses if someone is harmed on your property, if your property is damaged or if personal items on your property are stolen.

There are many other types of insurance available, including:

  • automobile insurance;
  • life insurance;
  • tenant insurance;
  • mortgage insurance;
  • travel insurance;
  • credit balance insurance;
  • additional health insurance.

More information on insurance is available from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada in Understanding Insurance Basics and in the Insurance section of the Canadian Consumer Handbook.

For complaints or mediation services related to insurance, contact:

UTILITIES

Services such as heating, lighting and water are called utilities. Electricity is often called hydro in Canada. Unless you are renting a house or apartment where utilities are clearly listed as being included in your rent, you will usually have to contact companies and open accounts for the utilities you need.

Before you buy a house or rent an apartment, be sure to ask about how the utilities are supplied, and which companies you will need to contact.

In areas where there is more than one company offering utility services, be sure to compare any offers and prices before you sign a contract.

How do I open a utilities account to get the services?

Talk to the company about what information you need to provide to set up your account. It is often possible to set up utility services before moving into a house or apartment. The company may ask you to give a security deposit when you are setting up your account.

How do I pay my utility services?

Utility bills are often sent monthly, or every two months, and can be paid either by direct withdrawals from your bank account (pre-authorized payment), by cheque through the mail, by Internet or telephone banking or through a financial institution. Bills may be based on actual monthly usage or on the monthly average usage that is expected for the year. Paying a monthly average for the expected usage for the year is often used for heating bills because it allows you to even out the higher costs of winter heating bills over a full year.

What are energy marketers and should I buy the services they are selling?

In some provinces, companies that are resellers of energy (energy marketers) sell their services door-to-door. They often claim to be able to guarantee electricity or natural gas prices if you sign a contract to buy energy (electricity or natural gas) from them for several years. Never sign for energy services when the salesperson visits your home. Ask him or her to leave the information in writing so you can take the time to sit down on your own and compare the services and prices they are offering to what you are receiving already. Ask about extra charges. Would the services they are selling affect any of the services you currently have or contracts you have signed, such as renting a water heater or furnace repair services?

See the Door-to-Door Sales section for more tips and information.

For complaints related to your energy bill, contact the company using the contact information on your bill. If you cannot resolve the complaint with the company, contact your provincial or territorial utility commission or board. You can find their contact information in the blue pages of your telephone book or by searching on the Internet.

PRODUCTS YOU NEED FOR YOUR HOME

Where can I buy furniture and appliances?

There are many different types of stores that sell new furniture. You can also find used furniture and appliances for sale in your local newspaper, used furniture stores or on the Internet. An immigrant-serving organization may be able to suggest good places to buy furniture in your community.

I have seen advertisements for “in-store” credit or “in-store credit cards.” What does this mean?

Many large retailers offer credit if you buy from them, sometimes with offers that you won’t have to pay for another 12 months or more. However, as with any kind of credit, these offers may come with higher interest costs. Also if you don’t pay on time, you may face high penalty charges.

Many companies that offer store credit cards charge high interest rates. These high interest rates can mean that you end up paying more than the price of the item you buy.

It is important to understand the costs to help you decide if these cards will help you in the long term as you build a history of your credit use in Canada.

To learn about the obligations of companies that offer credit contracts, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.

I have seen advertisements for “rent-to-own” furniture and appliances. What does this mean?

Rent-to-own stores ask you to sign a contract that lets you take the product home and make small weekly bi-weekly or monthly payments until you have fully paid for the items. This may sound like a good option if you don’t have the money to pay in full right now, or you can’t qualify for credit but this way may end up costing you a lot more – sometimes three or four times what it would cost if you paid in full at the time of purchase or financed your payment using a traditional consumer loan such as a line of credit from your bank.

With rent-to-own products, if you fail to make the weekly payments, the seller can come to your home and take back the items you have rented (reclaim or re-possess it). In that situation, all the money you have given the company in weekly payments up until that point will be lost and you won’t have a purchase to show for it. In some provinces, when taking products back, companies must abide by certain conditions.

For more information, visit the Rent to Own section of the Canadian Consumer Handbook.

To learn about the obligations of companies that offer long-term lease agreements or instalment sales contracts, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.