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December 17, 2021

What is a Certificate of Insurance?

A certificate of insurance is a document from an insurance company or broker that verifies an existing and valid insurance plan for the insured party. As an insured contractor working in any sector (e.g. construction, renovation, snow removal, and so on), there will be times that you need to show your certificate of insurance

Typically, the customers or clients of a project, as well as companies to whom you are subcontracting for, would first ask for the certificate of insurance before going into an agreement. 

In this guide, we will discuss everything there is to know about the certificate of insurance, including the following points:

Let’s begin!

An insurance broker issuing a certificate of insurance

What is the Certificate of Insurance?

A certificate of insurance or COI is an official document provided by the insurance company or the insurance broker that confirms the presence of an existing insurance policy for the insured. Typically, the insured, especially for commercial insurance plans, is responsible for obtaining this document whenever necessary. 

Is a Certificate of Insurance the Same as a Policy?

As we’ve covered in our guide on How to Understand Your Insurance Policy, the insurance policy of a business is a contract that provides extensive details about the following: 

  • The premium
  • The grace period for payment before coverage expires
  • The covered perils
  • The policy’s exclusions
  • The deductibles
  • Any pertinent riders

With all of the above details included in the insurance policy, this document always spans a number of pages – with sections such as the Dec Page, The Definitions, The Insuring Agreements, and so on. If you would like to learn more about these insurance terms found in a policy, feel free to check out this guide. 

In contrast, the COI or certificate of insurance does NOT cover everything in detail. Therefore, the certificate of insurance tends to be shorter, with most spanning just one page. The COI is there to verify, as well as summarize, what the insurance policy is all about. 

In the next section, we’ll go into a deeper dive into what you can find in your business’s certificate of insurance. 

What is Included in a Certificate of Insurance?

As we mentioned earlier, the certificate of insurance is typically just one page. However, these certificates are packed with information about your insurance policy. It is common to find the following bits of information organized neatly on your certificate: 

  • The date when the COI was issued to you
  • The entity (insurance company or insurance broker) that issued the COI
  • Your name and/or the name of the business insured
  • The kinds of insurance coverages that you have for your business
  • Note: If you have an insurance bundle including different kinds of coverage such as general liability, commercial auto, builder’s risk, pollution liability, and so on, these will be mentioned in the certificate of insurance.
  • The coverage limit/s that you have for your insurance plan or insurance bundle
  • The signature/s of the insurance broker or insurance agent

Why is a Certificate of Insurance issued?

The certificate of insurance plays a key role in many transactions in the business world. Mainly the COI is there to confirm the presence of a pertinent insurance type as a form of reassurance for a party/entity in the transaction/agreement who is concerned about liability and losses. 

So for contracting businesses and professionals, who are these parties/entities that need the reassurance in the form of a COI? Here are some examples: 

Who Would Request to See the COIUsual Reasons for Requesting the COI
1. Customer of home renovation businessCustomers of contractors for home renovations sometimes ask to see the contractors’ certificate of insurance, looking mainly for general liability coverage. This is to ascertain that any undue property damage to their home or any accidental third-party injury will be covered by the contractor’s insurance. 
2. Customer of a roofing companyCustomers enlisting the help of a roofer are likely to ask for the certificate of insurance in order to make sure that third-party property damage, as well as third-party injuries, will be covered under general liability. 
In addition, since roofing is considered a hazardous industry, some clients prefer roofers who have personal coverage or workers’ compensation coverage in case the roofer gets into an accident. Along with seeing the pertinent COI, some clients would ask to clarify who would be liable if the roofer falls from the roof. 
3. A company hiring subcontractorsMost companies are aware that any hired subcontractors are generally not included in their own general liability insurance plans. This is why the company hiring the subcontractors would ask for the COI to confirm that the subcontractor has their own insurance to cover them in the face of unforeseen accidents. 
4. A client hiring a professional contractorSome clients would ask to see the professional’s COI for professional liability insurance (e.g. engineer’s insurance, accountant’s insurance). This helps the client ascertain that the project is protected in case errors and/or unexpected delays will be an issue.  
Close-up of a handshake, representing the agreement of two parties after a certificate of insurance is presented

Where Can I Find My Certificate of Insurance?

In order to get your COI, you can call or email your insurance company or insurance brokerage firm. Then, the certificate will be emailed to you. As for other insurance companies or insurance brokers, the certificate of insurance will be available on their customer portal. When in doubt, reach out and ask. 

How Long Should It Take to Get a COI?

Typically the turnaround time for getting a certificate of insurance for an active commercial insurance plan is less than 1-2 days. However, this largely depends on the efficiency of the insurance broker or insurance company that you are working with. However, if your COI is available on a customer portal, then it’s usually just a matter of accessing the portal and downloading the COI. 

Hassle-Free & Personalized Insurance for Contractors

Getting a certificate of insurance is only one of the many things that you will need from the insurance broker that you’re working with. As a contracting business or professional, you need a responsive insurance broker who will be available to take care of all your insurance needs. 

Contractors Insurance specializes in providing customized insurance plans for contractors, tradespeople, and professionals in Ontario. Aside from the tailor-fit insurance plans that we offer, our dedicated team of insurance professionals are there for you every step of the way – from negotiating premiums, to promptly issuing a certificate of insurance, to following up on claims, and more. We offer the most hassle-free and specialized commercial insurance out there.

If you have more questions on what we can do for you or you’d like to get started with a free quote, contact us today!


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