Insurance and Historic Places

“I’d like to see my house designated as a Municipal Historic Resource, but would that not make insuring it really expensive?” This is a common concern. Many believe that once a place is designated as a Municipal Historic Resources (or a Provincial Historic Resource) insurance premiums go up, but this is uncommon. If you are a homeowner with replacement-cost insurance, your current policy should cover the conservation work needed if something should happen.

Homeowners normally insure their property for its replacement cost. This means that your insurer is responsible to pay for repairing, or if necessary replacing, your home if it is damaged or destroyed in a way covered by the policy. Most home insurance policies cover replacement cost, making the insurance company responsible for repairing (or if necessary replacing) the insured property in “like kind and quality”.

Designated as a Provincial Historic Resource, the Museum of the Highwood in High River was damaged by a fire in July 2010.

Insuring a historic place for its replacement value is important. Features that were once common can now be difficult and expensive to re-produce. Some once-common skills (like working with plaster) are now rare; many once ordinary and inexpensive materials (like hardwood) are now uncommon or expensive. Repairs to character-defining elements should match materials and design details. If you carry insurance that covers replacement in “like kind and quality” you likely have all the coverage needed. If a home is only partially destroyed, then ideally as much historic material as possible should be saved; unsalvageable elements should be reinstated as much as possible.

Your insurance premiums should not increase simply because your home is designated a Provincial or Municipal Historic Resource. Remember, when you originally purchased your policy and your insurance provider asked questions about the age of the home and the quality of the workmanship? The company was gathering information to assess what exactly they might have to repair or replace should a disaster occur. In fact, some companies now make visits to your home to note its features so there are no discrepancies at the time of a claim.

As always, reviewing the Statement of Significance for a designated site will help you understand why it is valued and what about it must be conserved. If you have specific questions, you can discuss the matter of insurance coverage with a Heritage Conservation Adviser.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

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