August 27, 2021
Joanne Tonita is the Branch Manager at our Grandview Corners Branch of Western Coast Insurance. Throughout her career, she has focused on providing our clients with the best coverage for their specific needs and backs it up with great service. She really enjoys the opportunity to mentor her team members to learn and grow within the insurance industry as others have done for her.
Could you describe your background in home insurance?
I have been with Western Coast for just about 10 years. My favourite part of what I do is building relationships and trust with our clients to properly protect them. You gain a deeper understanding of home insurance the longer you work with clients. Plus, you also learn how to best explain coverages to clients, so, that if they do experience a loss, they are protected properly. People's homes are often their biggest assets, whether they own a home, condo or townhouse. Over time, I've learned that it's really important to explain that to people and to make sure that they have the right coverage in place for their specific level of risk tolerance. If something goes wrong, we want to make sure they are adequately protected. As your career progresses and you support your clients through claims, you come to understand what the policy provides on a deeper level. This enables you to ensure your clients get the greatest value out of the insurance policies.
What is homeowners insurance?
In British Columbia, if you have a mortgage you must have homeowner’s insurance because your lender needs to know that they have invested in a secured asset. There are different sections of coverage within home insurance policies. The first thing covered within a home policy is the building. At Western Coast, we offer the best type of coverage, which is Guaranteed Replacement – we start with what is determined a realistic value to replace your home but if the loss exceeds that value we will still pay the full cost of replacing the home, even if this amount exceeds the policy limits. We cover your contents on a Replacement Cost basis – you replace damaged contents with new items, including taxes. So, your building is taken care of and made new and so are your contents. Home insurance policies also come with additional living expenses, so, if you need to live somewhere else while your home is being repaired you are not forced to spend out of pocket. If you have a good home insurance policy, you should never need a GoFundMe because your policy kicks in to cover your costs to make it right again.
What are the different types of home insurance?
Western Coast offers all types of home insurance whether it’s homeowners, condo/townhome, tenants, rental, or seasonal policies. Different policies offer different things and have different coverages available. We work to match the policies to each client's needs. Home insurance is only relevant in the event of a claim, so, what we want is for our clients to be happy that they have the right policy if a claim occurs.
Which home insurance policy is right for me?
Someone who has a 500 sq. ft. condo might need something very different than someone with a 2,000 sq. ft. townhome. A family of five may need different limits and coverages than a young couple starting out. Taking the time to understand the needs of each client is important because some people might collect designer purses while others might be perfectly content with their college backpack. It's always different and it changes over time as people go through life. What was good this year might not be true the next year or 10 years from now, which is why reviewing your policy and coverage every year is important. Different locations also require different protection: here on the West Coast, earthquakes are a big concern, but I'm not sure the same is true for Saskatchewan. Homeowners’ insurance is not a one size fits all and a good agent will tailor the policy to you.
What aspects of home insurance might surprise customers?
I think that all the coverage that is included in home insurance surprises people. For example, things like coverage while in transit while moving, and growing concerns like identity theft are covered. Home insurance policies cover a lot of things that people don't realize like liability because, yes, you have physical coverage for the structure and contents, but if something should happen and you are sued your policy will provide worldwide liability protection.
I think people are also surprised that their policy covers them for events like a neighbour’s tree falling on their home. Most people think that neighbour’s policy should cover this as it was their tree that caused the damage, but your home insurance policy protects you and your structure. While it seems logical that if someone else caused the damage they should fix it, you don’t have control over your neighbours insurance or even know if they have any, so, your policy needs to take care of you no matter what. Another example is water in apartment buildings. Whether you or the unit above you accidentally leave a tap on, your home will be fixed and that’s pretty reassuring to people.
How could a customer lower their home insurance premiums?
We can look at things like what deductibles homeowners are comfortable having in the event of a claim. We can make sure that the coverage we have on a policy is relevant to the homeowner and what their needs are. But lowering a premium is not always the best option as we want to make sure that they are properly protected in the event of a loss. A $100 savings can end up costing homeowners a lot of money. For example, one of the coverages we offer is Service Lines coverage. This provides coverage from your home to the street for things like underground water pipes, or power lines that have failed and need repair, and also takes care of landscaping costs. Home insurance policies typically don’t cover this and many homeowner’s don’t know that they are responsible for these costs. So it’s important to us that our premiums are affordable and tailored to our client's needs, but we also want to make sure that they are properly protected for the risks relevant to them and their property.
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