Holidays can be a busy, joyous time of year. So, whether you are jolly or grinchy, it’s important to know that the holiday season brings several unique risks that could affect the coverage in your homeowner’s insurance policy (or even lead to a claim.) Here’s a look at how increased risk during the holidays may affect your home insurance.

Home insurance (in a nutshell)

Homeowners’ insurance is a form of property insurance that covers losses and damages to an individual’s house and assets inside the home. Your policy usually covers interior damage, exterior damage and loss or damage of personal assets. It is also purchased by homeowners to protect them against liability in case of injury that occurs while on the property.

Homeowners’ insurance policies cover certain perils and coverage types will vary, although they do have some basic elements in common.

Homeowners’ policy coverage

  • Dwelling coverage: Covers the building and attached structures, such as garages and carports. Typically, home policies cover damages caused by explosions, fire, lightning, sleet or snow, theft and vandalism.
  • Other structure coverage: Covers detached structures, like sheds, fences and pergolas.
  • Personal property: Covers your home’s contents, including appliances, clothing, some electronics and furniture.
  • Personal liability: Coverage applies to incidents in which you (the homeowner) are at fault for injuries or property damage, including bodily injuries or property damage to someone outside your household while on your property, or damages or injuries caused by your child. It will also pay for your legal fees if you are sued for these types of damages.
  • Additional living expenses: (Loss of use), this coverage helps pay your living expenses if a covered peril, such as a fire, forces you to move out temporarily.
  • Medical payments: This coverage helps pay the immediate medical expenses of an injured guest, regardless of who is at-fault.

What are the 3 main ways that the holidays may affect your home insurance?

The types of damage most common during the holiday season are:

1. Theft & burglaries
2. Guest injuries
3. Fire

These three main types of risks are generally covered by standard homeowner’s insurance, although you should always confirm what is covered with your insurance provider. In most cases, a standard homeowner’s policy will cover holiday-related mishaps. Let’s take a closer look at each, and how these added risks during the holidays may affect your home insurance.

Theft of expensive presents and endorsements

Christmas gifts lying around the house can lead to a greater risk of theft claims. If property worth more than your deductible is taken, your insurance may cover it. Your home insurance policy typically covers the contents of your home, known as Personal Property. If you’re planning on giving (or end up receiving) a gift that’s on the more expensive side this holiday season, let your insurance provider know right away. They can ensure its covered under your policy!

However, it is important to note that every home insurance company treats valuables coverage differently. According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), many home insurance companies only include $1,500 in jewelry coverage with standard policies.

Also, your current policy coverage may exclude high-value items, like fine jewelry, furs, art and antiques. Should a theft or burglary occur at your home, basic personal property insurance may not cover those items. Therefore, it’s important to purchase a separate policy or rider on top of your existing policy to ensure that these high-ticket items are protected. Also known as “floaters,” these endorsements cover losses of any type, including those your homeowners’ insurance policy will not cover, such as accidental losses i.e. dropping your ring down the kitchen sink drain. Purchasing an endorsement will raise the premium, but result in a higher payout after a covered loss.

FYI: You may want to consider buying a Personal Articles Floater, which provides all-risks coverage for theft and mysterious disappearance. This will also reimburse you for misfortunes, like a diamond that falls out of a ring.

Reduce your risk while entertaining

Planning to host a holiday party with some friends or family? Preparing food and drinks is important, but don’t forget to prepare your home, as well (and we don’t mean party favors!) Take a good look at the layout of your home after all the holiday decorating is complete. Does the extra seating interfere with guests walking around freely? Have you made sure your walkway is safe by removing snow, putting down some salt and making sure it is well lit? Have a look at the home repairs that you haven’t gotten to, like fixing any faulty railings or steps or other necessary repairs to walkways.

Always remember that as the party host, you are responsible to ensure your guests are in a safe environment. Unfortunately, even with the best laid plans, accidents can and do happen. It can be as innocent as a friend slipping on a wet floor, or someone overly intoxicated injuring themselves or others. Keep an eye on your guests and be mindful of situations where people may get hurt. If someone spills a drink on the floor or a glass breaks, clean it up quickly so no one gets hurt.

Party insurance options

There are several musts when considering your insurance options. If you’re having a formal company event or a large gathering, you’ll want to get a liquor license and liquor liability insurance. It’s easier than you think! A Special Occasion permit from the LCBO is only $25 and Liquor liability insurance is as low as $150 for one single event. If you’re just hosting a party for a few people at your condo or apartment, all you need is condo or tenant insurance because the liability coverage is really what you need. One or two million dollars in coverage is the norm, and you may also want to consider an umbrella liability policy that covers you for higher liability limits, such as five or ten million dollars.

And remember that it’s within your power to minimize your risk, meaning you can hire a bartender to control who drinks what, encourage the use of designated drivers (or taxis and rideshares), serve food and stop serving alcohol an hour or so before everyone leaves as an added precaution. This is a great way to avoid the many ways that the holidays may affect your home insurance.

5 fire-fighting facts for the holidays

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), most fires occur between December 15 to December 31. The top holiday fire triggers are usually cause by Christmas trees, lighting equipment, cooking, candles or fireplaces.

1. Christmas trees

While percentages of house fires from trees have gone down in recent years, they still account for almost one third of holiday fires. The good news is whether your tree is real or fake, it’s rare for them to catch fire. If you’re using a real one for the fresh pine air, be sure to keep it well watered and away from sources of heat because it can become flammable. Dried-out Christmas trees caused more than 29 percent of home fires this past January. On the other hand, choosing an artificial tree is the safer option, but make sure that it is fire resistant; you will see a fire-resistant label when buying. When setting it up, make sure the base is sturdy to avoid tipping or falling over.

2. Lighting equipment

While using powered ornaments to decorate and large quantities of Christmas lights to string across the house, fence and trees, be weary of the risks. There are precautions to consider when adding more lighting equipment and power cords. The Toronto Star reported that the NFPA has indicated on their website a 27 percent increase in fires related to electrical issues. It is recommended to have no more than 1400 watts on a circuit. Also, remember to periodically check the light strings to ensure they are not warm to the touch. LED lighting is now recommended because it produces very little heat, which reduces the risk of fire. Check all cords to ensure they have a good connection and that any plug-in ends don’t get buried in the snow. Above all, turn off all holiday lighting before going to bed or out for the evening.

3. Cooking

Historically, the holiday season has more reported fires from cooking than any other time of the year. Here are some precautions to take when preparing holiday meals:

  • Make sure kids stay at least three feet away from stoves and ovens. Or, make your kitchen a kids-free zone during holiday meal preparation.
  • Plug cooking appliances directly into an outlet and avoid connecting them to an extension cord.
  • Always remain in or near your kitchen while cooking. Don’t cook your holiday turkey or ham overnight, while you are asleep or while you’re away from home.
  • Never use a deep-fat turkey fryer indoors, even in a garage. Place the turkey fryer on concrete at least three feet from dry grass or shrubs, or purchase an oil-less turkey fryer for safer cooking.
  • Clean grease from stove tops and countertops to avoid possible flare-ups.
  • Also, keep your surfaces clutter-free so you have somewhere to put that hot pan when you take it out.
  • Having a fire extinguisher nearby is key! If your turkey or tree catch fire, you’ll want the necessary tools to put it out quickly and effectively. The worst times make the best stories when there is a positive outcome, and it will only cost you about $30 to buy one.

4. Candles

Although festive, candles have accounted for 57% of home decoration fires. Candles get placed in the middle of decorative greens or as a table ornament, and as the holidays get hectic, people often forget they are still burning before leaving to visit friends or before heading off to a restful slumber. As the candle burns down, it ignites the combustible materials surrounding it, which can then spread. A candle fire during the holidays may affect your home insurance policy due to an unexpected claim.

5. Fireplaces

Nothing says winter and Christmas like a roaring fire. It’s a special feature in the home over the winter holidays that helps fuel those festive spirits. But, before striking a match, be sure you have kept up with its maintenance. The Canada Safety Council offers tips to enjoy your fireplace safely this winter:

  • Make sure fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are working.
  • Place a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Do not store newspapers and other combustibles near your fireplace.
  • Have your chimney professionally cleaned and serviced annually to prevent tar and creosote buildup.
  • Check for hazards often, such as excessive soot or rust.
  • Never leave pets and children alone around a burning fire.
  • Never leave your house unattended when a fire is burning.
  • Only burn small amounts of dry, well-seasoned wood.

No matter what type of fireplace you currently have, be sure you understand the risks that go along with ownership. Always practice fire safety, and make sure your isure broker knows about your fireplace.

Additional tips

  • Some holiday decorations can be counted as cherished family heirlooms that find their place in your home each year. Be sure to check that none of the decorations are damaged, that cords are not frayed and that they do not pose a threat of shock if touched.
  • If it is time to trade up, be sure to use holiday lights that have the mark of an accredited certification agency, such as CSA, cUL or cETL. Check the Healthy Canadians Recalls and Safety Alerts Database before buying or using lights to find out about the latest recalls.
  • New toys and gifts are holiday highlights for many children. According to the website, you can minimize potential hazards from new gifts by buying sturdy, well-made toys that are appropriate for your child’s age. Toys for older children may contain small parts or other hazards that may make them unsafe for young children. Be aware that toys can be recalled for health or safety reasons – check the Healthy Canadians Recalls and Safety Alerts Database (as mentioned above) for more information about the latest recalls.

No matter what the occasion, there is nothing quite like celebrating special events and holidays at home with friends and family. After a couple of difficult and isolated years, we are all ready to spread some holiday cheer with the ones we hold dear. Remember, with a little preventative planning, you can reduce your home holiday risk while entertaining this year. Be sure to discuss any holiday plans or purchases that may affect your homeowner’s policy with your isure representative. If you follow our tips above, you could avoid the many risk-inducing ways that the holidays may affect your home insurance.

Happy holidays!

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