YK Mythbusters: Can Houseboaters Get Insurance?

So, you’ve decided to be a Houseboater. This is not just about owning a houseboat on the Bay, of course: it’s deciding to put on a lifejacket for your daily commute; it’s learning to be your own plumber/carpenter/mechanic; and possibly living a life of honey buckets and Racquet Club showers. A small but hardy group of Yellowknifers choose the lifestyle, however, for the freedom of life on the water, the simplicity of living off-grid, and the caring community created among the floating Back Bay neighbourhood.

Houseboaters work hard to maintain their lifestyle and so need to protect it fiercely, but what exactly is out there for them to insure their investment on the water? When looking for home insurance coverage, the answer you’re going to get when calling local insurance companies and banks is: you’re on your own there, and some are pretty firm on that.

Generally speaking, all insurance companies have slightly different requirements or criteria when it comes to insuring a houseboat. Some won’t insure houseboats, and others will only insure your houseboat as an addition to your existing home policy (cue head scratch). Cooperator’s Insurance explained that they won’t insure a home that doesn’t have road access, even making it difficult for most living in small communities across the NWT, as well as some areas of Northlands. A lot of companies just won’t take the risk on houseboats.

While difficult to get clear answers in town, we did finally find one company in B.C. who offers coverage, but it can get complicated. Beacon Underwriting Ltd. offers Live Aboard coverage to houseboats that have been approval through a local broker (usually Hub or Norland in Yellowknife), although not every local broker will give you a straight answer on this. If you choose to build your own houseboat, though, the process can get darn near impossible, since your application requires a survey, and the Underwriter I spoke to admitted that there’s basically no one here in town to do that. That’s when things can get really costly. If and when you do get approval, your coverage will be on a per dollar value based on the value of the houseboat (so a $25,000 houseboat would carry roughly a $600/year premium) among many other variables, and the price goes up from there.

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It can be understandable that, with all the hoops to jump through, many houseboaters choose not to have home insurance in the end. Risky business, but such is the life of the Yellowknife houseboater. Fearless and independent as they may seem, their homes are fragile, so those on the Bay look out for one another, knowing how to take care of each other when things get rough.

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