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HERITAGE HOUSES & INSURANCE

There have been recurring questions regarding the escalating costs and availability of property insurance for heritage houses.  In addition, it has become evident that in relation to Heritage-Designated properties, some clarification may be helpful.

What Does Heritage Designation Mean?

  • There are over 600 houses that are listed on the City of Victoria Register of Heritage Properties. Approximately 400 are Heritage-Designated and 200 are Heritage-Registered.

  • A Heritage-Registered property does not have legal protection and Council approval is not required for maintenance or alterations to a Heritage-Registered property that is not located within a Development Permit Area or Heritage Conservation Area.

  • A Heritage-Designated property is protected through a municipal heritage designation bylaw and may not be altered or demolished without Council approval.

  • A heritage property is not designated because of its age, but rather, by its heritage value.

  • The intent of designation is to preserve the historic, physical, contextual or other community heritage value of a property.

  • Most designations cover only the exterior of the building, not the interior. For properties whose interiors are not designated, the owner is free to alter the interior, provided that it does not impact the exterior of the building and it satisfies applicable building codes.

  • Owners of Heritage-Designated properties should consult the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada (Government of Canada, 2010) to determine what changes are acceptable and the appropriate design approach in order to ensure the conservation of heritage values.

  • If a designated building is completely or substantially destroyed, it is most likely that the heritage values associated with the property would also be destroyed.  When heritage values no longer exist, the corresponding designation bylaw that designated the property would have no relevance. In addition, a designation bylaw does not oblige the owner to replicate any lost heritage attributes. A replacement building, for example, can be of a different design.

Will Heritage Designation Affect My Home Insurance?

  • In recent years home insurance rates have escalated across the board affecting all properties within certain areas.

  • Due to recent natural disasters around the world, home insurance companies have reassessed risks, tightened their underwriting criteria, and some insurers are reluctant to take on risks that may not have been a concern in the past.

  • Insurers are looking for ways to minimize their risks.

  • Given the above clarifications as to what heritage designation means, designation itself should not place additional requirements on the insurer and therefore should not affect premiums.

  • A variety of other reasons may cause insurance companies to increase premiums for older buildings if there is a higher level of risk, such as out-dated wiring, old heating systems, etc. These risks are not unique to heritage houses. Many hazards (aluminum wiring, certain types of plastic water pipe, asbestos, vermiculite insulation) are often found in newer houses.

  • Since there are no insurance industry standards, each insurance company can develop their own policy requirements.

  • Some insurance companies may not insure heritage houses or those over a certain age.

  • Several companies will insure older houses. Some may carry out site inspections to identify specific perceived risks which can then be addressed.

  • As with any insurance plan, it’s best to research the various insurance providers in order to find the most competitive rate and best service from your insurer.

  • If you are having issues with insuring your heritage house in Victoria, we may be able to assist by providing names of companies that have been heritage-friendly, based on reviews from other heritage homeowners.


 © VICTORIA HERITAGE FOUNDATION (VHF) 2016 Phone 250-383-4546  Email:
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