Whether you consider yourself jolly or grinchy, it’s important to know that the holiday season brings several unique risks that could affect the coverage in your homeowners insurance policy (or even lead to a claim). Here’s a look at four of those risks and how to keep your home protected.
1. Expensive presents (Hint: Get a personal property endorsement!)
Your home insurance policy typically covers the stuff you own under what’s called Coverage C (personal property). But that coverage may exclude high-value items like fine jewelry, furs, art, and antiques.
If you’re planning on giving (or end up receiving) a gift that’s on the more expensive side this holiday season, call your insurance provider to make sure it’s covered. What they’ll likely do is write an endorsement, which essentially means add some extra coverage, to ensure that the high-ticket item is protected.
2. Engagement rings
Ever heard of “ Engagement Season ?” Turns out, it’s the same as the holiday season.
Because of the spirit of gift-giving and the chance to be with families, engagements tend to cluster around the holidays. If you or someone in your household is likely to get engaged this holiday season, make sure you dial up your insurance provider to add the ring to your homeowner’s insurance policy. Otherwise, there’s a chance that it won’t be covered in the event of a disaster.
Here’s the deal: parties are a wonderful part of the holiday season, but if you’re hosting and serving alcohol, you may be exposing yourself to a lot of risk, thanks to social host liability.
Essentially, social host liability means that if someone drinks at your party and then hurts themselves or someone else (e.g., by driving home), you could be held liable for damages if they decide to sue.
So if a drunk guest leaves your party, drives home, and hits a pedestrian, you could be partly liable for that pedestrian’s hospital bills, should they bring a lawsuit. That’s pretty scary, given how expensive hospital bills can be.
But there are a few important qualifiers here:
- Not every state has social host liability laws. (Check your state’s laws .)
- Even in states without social host liability, though, you could be held liable for an injury that happens in your home (even if the injury happened in part because the injured person was intoxicated).
- It is illegal in every state to serve alcohol to those under 21. If you do that, you could face criminal charges (which would not be covered by your home insurance policy).
So if you’re hosting a party where drinks will be served, do a little research. If your state does allow social host liability, check with your insurance provider to make sure you’re covered. Many homeowners policies offer this coverage as part of the personal liability coverage (Part E).
And remember, too, that it’s within your power to minimize your risk: 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.
Fires are already one of the most common homeowners insurance claims. Now the National Fire Protection Association tells us the holidays are particularly busy for firefighters. For example, while candles account for just 3% of house fires per year, the four biggest days for candle-related fires are New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and Christmas Eve.
Other top holiday fire triggers ? Christmas trees, lighting equipment, cooking, and decorations.
Obviously, nobody wants their home to burn down. And really nobody wants it to happen over the holidays. So while your homeowner’s insurance policy almost certainly offers coverage for fire-related damage, be extra-alert as you deck the halls to make sure you and your loved ones are safe this holiday season.
Sometimes while the Whos are all down in Who-ville, there’s a Grinch back at home, plotting to plunder the presents from under the tree. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, incidents of robbery and personal larceny increase by roughly 20% during the last month of the year.
Theft at any time of year is likely to dampen the mood, it’s sure to sap your spirit around the holidays. You can reduce the chance of Christmas thieves visiting while you’re away by:
- Installing a smart home security system.
- Pausing your mail delivery if you’re gone for more than a day.
- Setting timers so your lights go on as the sunsets.
These and other steps may deter holiday heists, but they won’t necessarily keep criminals at bay. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re adequately covered, so anything damaged or stolen can be replaced.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2017. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.