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Imagine your home or business was suddenly ransacked by looters. Would your insurance have you covered?

That question is on the minds of thousands of Britons this week, as several nights of riots have caused damages expected to cost upwards of £100-million, according to the Association of British Insurers.

Think it couldn't happen here? Let's not forget the riot in Vancouver after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup in June. And who can forget the G20 riots in Toronto last summer?

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If you're not sure what's in your insurance policy, you're not alone. Seventy-one per cent of Canadians are not very familiar with their insurance policies, according to a survey released Tuesday by Allstate Canada. Of those surveyed, 13 per cent did not know if their insurance covered them for damage caused by a fire, a basic coverage included in all home and tenant policies.

"What is clear from our survey is that Canadians are purchasing home and car insurance without taking steps to understand what they are getting," said Saskia Matheson, an Allstate Canada spokeswoman. "If people are not fully aware of what their coverage entitles them to or the process to make a claim, then they may not get the full benefits of the coverage when they need it most."

While riots are rare in Canada, they do happen, says Ms. Matheson, and that's not the time to figure out whether you're covered.

"Most insurance home policies specially include coverage for riots," Ms. Matheson says. However, some policies don't cover vandalism. "You want to make sure that your policy seamlessly covers you for the risks that you face."

Also, make sure you're aware of any conditions required for making a claim, Ms. Matheson says. Some policies require you to call your insurer before making repairs, and there may be time limits for reporting damages.

When a tornado hit Vaughan, Ont., in 2009, for example, a lot of people were subject to damage over a very short period of time. "Sometimes you get people showing up at the doorstep with a truck and a box of shingles saying, 'I'll fix your roof.' And that's never a smart avenue to take," Ms. Matheson says.

To find out what you're covered for, look in your policy for a section called "insured perils," which will outline events that are covered. If reading insurance documents leaves you in a cold sweat, call your insurer for help.

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Ms. Matheson suggests reviewing your insurance coverage regularly, especially if you're facing a move, a big purchase, an inheritance or a renovation.

She also suggests keeping a checklist of your possessions and reviewing it regularly to make sure your coverage is adequate.

"These are the most important assets you're probably going to own in your life – your car, your home, and you're protecting your family," Ms. Matheson says. "It's worthwhile for you to take the time to make sure you've got the right coverage."

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