Halloween can be especially scary for homeowners. Between accidental fires and unexpected company (supernatural or otherwise), it’s no wonder insurers see upticks in vandalism and property damage claims this time of year.
Here are the eight spooky incidents that could darken your door and trigger home insurance claims.
1. Jack-O’-Lantern Fires
Jack-o’-lanterns can easily be more trick than treat in the wrong hands.
Over the three-day period around Halloween, 10,100 fires were reported in the US each year from 2014 to 2016, according to the US Fire Administration. These fires caused 30 deaths, 125 injuries, and $102 million in property damage. Of these fires, 32 percent are residential.
The most common culprits? Cooking, heating, and pure recklessness.
Take the father who placed a grill lighter in an upside down pumpkin that wasn’t fully carved. Fumes built up inside the pumpkin and caused a flash fire, resulting in second-degree burns.
Home insurance should cover fire damage to your home and belongings, but play it safe! Instead of real candles in your jack-o’-lantern, try flameless votives.
2. The Case of the Deadly Peanuts
One in three children have a food allergy, causing 3,800 Halloween-related injuries each year. About 2.5 percent of all children in the US are allergic to peanuts.
That can be an issue if you pass out candy to children on Halloween. If a child has an allergic reaction to your treat, you could be sued for their medical bills.
To keep scary allergic reactions at bay, consider handing out allergy-friendly candies. Check the labels and keep an eye out for mischievous peanuts.
3. Post-Death Cleanup
Our home insurance covers your dwelling on an open-perils basis, meaning it covers a lot of unexpected sources of damage.
A particularly tragic example? Death cleanup costs.
If someone dies in the house (depending on the circumstance), home insurance may cover some of the removal and remediation costs if there’s damage to the home (as is often the case with unattended deaths).
No, it can’t help you get rid of ghosts. That’s a job for another set of experts.
4. A House Swallowed by the Earth
Picture this: you’re sitting at home when all of a sudden you notice the corner of your bathroom cascading into the ground. To the best of your knowledge, your home was not built on a hellmouth – so what in the world could it be?
Sinkholes swallow Florida homes more often than you might think. In fact, this exact situation happened to a family in Apopka, Florida, after Hurricane Irma.
While sinkholes are not covered by all insurers, all Florida homeowners insurance companies offer catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage to all policyholders.
5. Eerie Libations
Did you know 86 percent of adults bring alcohol to Halloween parties? If you’re hosting a spooky soiree at your house, those cups of liquid courage can lead to accidents that you could be liable for. For example, if a guest imbibes too much and falls off your porch, you may be responsible for those medical expenses.
In some states, you may even be responsible for accidents and injuries your inebriated guests cause even after they leave your party.
Good thing homeowners insurance might pay for immediate medical expenses when guests have small injuries on your property, depending on how it happened.
6. When Cujo Attacks
We know your precious pooch wouldn’t hurt a fly (though a steak is another story). But dogs are still animals, and sometimes they act in unpredictable ways. Plus costumes can really stress out some dogs, according to the ASPCA, which means your pup may wake up on October 31 and choose chaos.
The CDC estimates 4.7 million people sustain dog bites each year, 800,000 of which require medical care. If your dog does bite someone, you are responsible for those medical expenses.
Your home insurance policy may help cover those costs if you added on animal liability coverage (and depending on the breed). This is the only coverage that can help pay for bodily injuries and property damage your rambunctious pup (or other domestic pets) may cause.
7. Mysterious Animal Encounters
You wake to commotion coming from the kitchen one morning. You hear pots and pans hit the floor, the shatter of broken plates. As you cautiously approach, nothing could have prepared you for the surreal, spine-chilling horror of seeing a 400-pound black bear standing in your home.
That’s what happened to a man in Colorado who barely escaped with his life. It sounds like his garage door may have taken a hit.
If a bear wanders into your home and causes mayhem, a homeowners policy may cover that kind of damage to the dwelling, depending on where you live and the exact language in the policy.
8. Uninvited Ghouls
Halloween is prime time for trespassing and mischief – a time when unauthorized guests trample your perfectly manicured lawn or smash your pumpkins.
Unfortunately, even if an uninvited guest is on your property, you can be held responsible for their injuries.
So if a little ghost trips over the tombstones decorating the lawn or swings from the witch dangling from your tree and falls, those medical expenses could be on you. Fortunately, medical payments coverage or your personal liability insurance can help cover that.
And if a scoundrel vandalizes your home, home insurance may cover those repair and cleanup costs, too (depending on your policy's language).
How to Avoid Halloween Horrors (and Home Insurance Claims)
Keep the scares at bay with these Halloween safety tips:
- Clear your walkways. Pick up all tripping hazards, like pumpkins, electrical cords, and wet leaves.
- Secure your railings. Don't let visitors don’t take a spill on your steps. Check your handrails to make sure they’re sturdy.
- Keep your pets inside. Don’t give your pets a chance to escape or accidentally attack visitors. Keep them indoors where you can make sure they’re safe.
- Be smart with your decor. Skip the flames and use glow sticks or LED candles to light up jack-o’-lanterns. If your decorations require an outlet, make sure you keep the cords clear of walkways.
- Keep your porch lights on. Reduce the chance of tricks like theft and vandalism. Leave your outdoor lights on to deter visits from ne'er do wells.
- Make sure your guests have a safe way to get home. Don't let revellers drink and drive! Offer to call a cab or rideshare if they've celebrated a little too much.
Looking for more Halloween adventure this Fall, check out these Florida ghost towns that can give you the spooks.