Canadian Underwriter

Oddballs: Unusual insurance requests lurk in the shadows

October 20, 2021   by Brooke Smith

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Had any insurance coverage requests for an alien abduction or a zombie attack lately? Maybe if you’re a broker in the U.S., but probably not here.  

“I think in Canada, we don’t get as many ‘out there’ requests because our population is smaller,” says James Turner, team lead at Bryson Insurance. 

Still, Turner has seen some head-scratching requests.  

One client asked to take out a policy on his neighbour’s house because he was worried the neighbour didn’t have insurance. “They were in a townhouse,” says Turner, “and he was worried that if a fire started on their side, they wouldn’t have coverage and it wouldn’t cover his house.”  

He explained to the client that insurance doesn’t work that way, but still provided him with what he called a “rough quote.” 

And, at a prior job, Turner had a request from senior citizen who was renting a basement apartment and wanted a policy for a hot tub he’d installed. “I started to do the quote — thinking he installed it in the backyard — only to realize he installed the hot tub in his living room,” he says. 

Turner asked the man if his landlord knew. Nope. “Eventually he told me the landlord forced him to take it out,” he says.  

While the hot tub and the neighbour’s house were uninsurable, some unusual risks do deserve coverage.  

Alex Hillhouse, team leader with the sales department at Mitchell & Whale, was once asked to insure a motorcycle customized to look like a fighter jet.  

“The owner said he wears his pilot’s helmet when he’s driving it, just to get the look,” says Hillhouse. The brokerage has also insured several personal-use hovercrafts. “We found a couple of clients who like to play around on these vehicles,” he adds. 

Then there was the funeral home that was being converted to a residence by house flippers for a reality-TV show. “It was a big, over 100-year-old Victorian building, [and the] funeral home [was] being converted to a mansion,” he says. 

Given the age and uniqueness of the property, the film crew wanted coverage in case anything happened during the filming.  

But one of the most mind-boggling calls happened a couple of years ago. One of Hillhouse’s colleagues got a call from a potential client reporting their house was on fire and asking if they could get insurance. “I remember hearing, ‘I think you should hang up and call 9-1-1,’” he says.  

While he’s never had a request for alien abduction or zombie attack coverage, Hillhouse has carefully considered the walking dead threat.  

“In the wording of a homeowner’s policy, it’s usually classified as all-risk,” he says. “So, if you [arrived at your home] and it had been attacked by zombies…technically, the damage to your home would be covered.”  


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