The holidays are generally a busy time for everyone. They represent a time of increased travel, hosting and are generally just a busy time of the year. All of that busy-ness, however, can also increase the risk of accidents. From fires to slip-and-fall injuries, here are some potential hazards to your home for the holidays and what your insurance might cover – and what it doesn’t.
Roasting chestnuts over an open fire might be a time-honored holiday tradition, but it cal also increase your risk of a house fire. In fact, more than twice the number of fireplace-related claims are made over the holidays than the rest of the year. While the good news is that most basic homeowner policies will cover this, you want to make sure that your coverage limits will actually cover rebuilding your home (should that be necessary) as well as covering all of your personal belongings. If you’ve had the same policy and coverage limits in place for several years, it might be time to sit down with your insurance agent and make sure your coverage limits are on par with the actual value of your home.
Backed up sewage
The holidays will most often bring additional guests, which also creates increased traffic in the bathroom. Sometimes, you may have a more sensitive sewage or septic system than your guests may be used to and they may flush things down the toilet that your system can’t handle. An increase in unsupervised children can also lead to a number of unfortunate incidents. Unfortunately, your sewage and/ or septic system is not covered under a basic homeowner’s insurance policy unless you have a specific rider for it. Conversely, however, if your sewage system backs up outside of your house, it might actually be a city problem and not yours.
Many people go on vacation or travel over the holidays, but there is also a significant increase in traffic. Between visitors and guests coming and going and deliveries being made, even the nosiest of neighbors might lose track of who is coming and going in your home. This can make it much easier for thieves to break into your home, even in broad daylight. Burglaries generally increase by 6$ over the holidays and Christmas presents under the tree make it even easier to determine where your valuables are likely to be. Thankfully, your homeowner’s insurance will generally cover your possessions at anywhere from 50-70% of your home coverage. So, if you have $200,000 in coverage, you will be covered for anywhere from $100,000 – $140,000 in stolen possessions.
Slip and fall accidents
As a homeowner, it is your responsibility to keep walks clear and safe. No matter how diligent you may be, however, accidents can always happen. Whether it is a guest arriving for a party, a visitor or even a mailman or delivery driver, if someone slips and falls on your property, you could be liable. Thankfully, however, your homeowner’s insurance will generally provide no-fault medical coverage that will cover the medical expenses of someone injured on your property. The caveat to this, however, is that it is typically limited to $1,000 to $5,000 worth of coverage. For around $300 a year, however, you can purchase up to $1 million worth of umbrella liability protection that will cover you when your standard liability coverage runs out. While many homeowners may not need that much coverage, if you live in a particularly snowy or icy area or have a steep driveway or lots of steps, it might be worth it to invest in the additional coverage.
Generally, the holidays bring with it some of the lowest temperatures of the year. This can sometimes cause pipes to freeze and burst. In addition, having a number of extra guests in your home or more frequent visitors can also put a strain on plumbing, which can also lead to a burst pipe. Water damage due to burst pipes or other plumbing issues is the second-most flied claim among insurance companies in the US, with the average claim amounting to around $10,000. The good news is, your homeowners insurance will generally cover the cost of plumbing repair, professional cleanup and even replace any items that may be destroyed as a result.
In addition, in some cases it may even cover additional living expenses like a hotel, food or transportation expenses if the damage is extensive enough to require you to temporarily live elsewhere while your home is being repaired after a covered loss. Keep in mind, however, insurance will only cover pipes that are properly cared for and well maintained. For instance, if the pipe bursts due to neglect or a lack of maintenance or because you didn’t leave the heat on when you went on vacation, your insurance company may not have to pay.
Holiday festivities get out of hand
Alcohol can certainly help make the holidays more merry, but it can also sometimes cause things to get a little out of hand. Most states have laws that can hold social hosts liable if a guest drinks a bit too much and gets in an accident or injures others. Homeowner’s insurance will generally provide some limited amount of liquor liability coverage, but it might not be enough to satisfy an adverse judgement. In addition, if you happen to be the one that gets drunk and hurts or injures someone, then you’re on your own. Your homeowner’s insurance will cover a certain amount of misbehavior on the part of your guests, but it draws the line at covering you.
This year, you want to make sure your holidays are merry and bright, not a disaster. Before the holidays might be a good time to sit down with your insurance agent and make sure all of your coverage is up-to-date. You want to make sure that the coverage you have covers the value of your home and belongings right now, now whatever it was worth several years ago.