Taking shoveling duties off the list of winter to-dos is one way to make the weather far more bearable, and also helps keep hundreds of seasonal workers employed year-round. There’s nothing better than watching a snowfall knowing you can simply enjoy the beauty of it all while someone else has the responsibility of clearing your sidewalks, pathways, and driveways to make them free of slip-and-fall hazards.
Those hiring a snow removal contractor need to be cautious, however. Experts are warning to be very careful about checking their insurance. Unfortunately for those in the snow removal industry, obtaining proper insurance coverage is becoming more difficult and is getting a lot more expensive. According to a recent article by the CBC.ca, Calgary snow removal contractors are being hit by rising premiums up to 500% higher than they were only two years ago. Experts say that this could lead to less competition in the industry, which inevitably results in higher costs. Even worse than that, some snow removal contractors could choose to forego coverage altogether, leaving homeowners at risk of liability.
What to look for in your snow removal contractor’s insurance coverage
Snow removal contractors are reporting massive fee hikes and the inability to renew their coverage as insurance companies shut down insurance options for snow removal professionals. Some are having difficulty finding insurance at all, and if they do, the scope of coverage is not nearly as comprehensive as it used to be. One snow removal company owner says that he is now paying three times more for 60% less coverage, and the cost of deductibles has also risen exponentially – from $1,000 to $10,000 in one case. This has led many to consider raising prices for their clients while also looking around for cost-saving measures. Some are choosing to take a serious hit to their profitability, which begs the question as to whether or not staying in business is even an option.
It’s very important to check the insurance coverage of your snow removal contractor. If there is a slip-and-fall injury on your property and they do not have proper coverage, you could be held liable. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that cheaper snow removal is better … it may be that those snow removal companies are cutting costs by failing to obtain adequate coverage. The minimum amount of liability coverage to look for is $2 million and the policy should be up to date and valid for the entirety of the winter season.
When choosing a snow removal contractor experts also advise:
- Getting multiple estimates. It’s hard to know how much you should be paying without looking into several options.
- Cross-comparing contracts. Read the fine print to see what exactly is included in the services. Will they treat ice? How soon do they promise to show up after a snowfall? What sort of equipment will they use?
- Check their references and search them out online. Don’t be shy to request the name and number of a snow removal client who can attest to their company’s reliability. Also do some online sleuthing for any bad reviews or negative comments about a company’s services.
- Make sure you fully understand the pricing. Will you be charged a certain amount each month regardless of how much snow falls? Or, will your snow removal contractor charge per visit? Will they charge extra for treating ice? And so on.
- Find out if they use subcontractors, and if they do, ask if the subcontractor is fully covered as well.
- Be sure to clearly explain to your snow removal contractor exactly where you would like your snow piled and which areas you want to have cleared.
Why snow removal insurance costs are going up
In the CBC.ca article, the vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Pacific region Aaron Sutherland cites several reasons for snow removal coverage being on the rise, and it’s a problem that’s happening across the country. Between 2013 and 2020 there has been a 108% increase in the number of liability claims being filed, and they are seeing larger and larger payouts. These costs are now being downloaded onto customers. In addition, claims are now being shifted to the snow removal contractor’s insurance, rather than the property owner who hired the company. The reason Alberta is seeing such a huge change in the amount of coverage available and the overall cost is because the province leads the country in the number of slip-and-fall claims. In 2019, liability insurance claims in Alberta totalled $608 million. In 2018 that number was $537 million, and in 2017 it was $337 million.
Sutherland says that legislative bodies could help mitigate the issue by placing caps on the amount payable for a slip-and-fall injury and decreasing the amount of time available to make a claim from two years to 60 days .
One way snow removal contractors are trying to avoid a slip-and fall claim is by refusing work at homes and businesses that have a high risk of a slip-and-fall accident, such as severely sloped properties or those without proper drainage.
Talk to Lane’s about your business insurance coverage
If you are having difficulty finding insurance coverage for your snow removal company it’s a great time to reach out to an insurance broker such as us at Lane’s. We work for you, not the insurance companies, and are your allies in the insurance industry. You’ve worked hard to grow your business through difficult times, and you need to protect that investment with the right coverage.
Additional business insurance policies available through Lane’s include: