It's all fun and games until someone over-fuels the fire pit. Here's how insurance may respond to your favorite summer activities when they go awry.
Summer, Homeowners Insurance, and You
Ah, summer. Longer days, better weather, and maybe even a little vacation time. You’re almost certainly ready (we sure are!), but is your homeowners insurance policy? For example, do you know whether your homeowners policy will protect you if you build a fire pit in your backyard?
Now is the time to find out. See how summer’s most popular events will affect your homeowners policy and what steps you should take (if any) to make sure you’re covered through the dog days and beyond.
- Swimming pools: If you already have a pool, you’ve likely already purchased a homeowners policy that offers coverage for any pool-related liabilities and property damage. But if you’re installing one this summer (in ground or above), make sure you let your insurance carrier know. Swimming pools introduce a whole new world of risk for you and your guests, so your insurance company will likely want to update your policy to accommodate the new structure.
- Trampolines: Summer days spent jumping in the sun (or shade, depending on the weather) can make for great fun and great memories. But like swimming pools, trampolines come with unique risks. If you buy a trampoline this summer, call your insurance company. As with the swimming pool, they may have to update your policy to ensure that you’re covered in case something goes wrong.
- Grills, barbecues, and fire pits: Whether you’re enjoying a small family meal or hosting a neighborhood blowout, outdoor cooking appliances come with a unique set of dangers. While most grills and grilling activity is covered by a standard homeowners policy, fire pits and freestanding barbecue structures may not be. The key is to check local laws and ordinances around fires. In fire-prone areas of the country, recreational burning is often banned or heavily restricted. In other areas, municipalities may require you to place or build fire pits a certain distance from your home or your neighbors’ property lines. Homeowners insurance policies won’t cover damage from illegal activities, so if fires are off-limits where you live, avoid them or risk losing coverage through your policy.
- Home repairs: Summer is a great time to have external repairs and upgrades done to your property. But before you jump into a new project, make sure you’ve got adequate insurance protection. If you’re hiring contractors, verify their workers’ compensation and general liability insurance before they start work. Talk with your insurance provider to determine whether your existing property coverage will still function normally while work is being done on your home (coverage varies by policy). In some cases, you may want to take out a builder’s risk policy (or ask to be named as an additional insured on your contractor’s policy), which covers equipment, tools, and materials for building projects in progress. For minor updates like new shutters or paint, check that whoever does the work has active general liability and workers’ comp coverage. That way, if anything goes wrong, you’ll be able to collect financial compensation to cover your losses.
- Traveling: For one- or two-week vacations, your standard homeowners insurance policy covers you. But if you’re planning to be gone for more than 30 or 60 days (depending on your policy), you may be required to carry vacant home insurance on top of your normal homeowners policy. This is because a vacant house is more susceptible to certain risks (theft, vandalism, etc.) and insurance companies want to make sure they’re calculating the risk properly. If you don’t feel like getting more insurance (trust us, we don’t blame you), consider hiring a homesitter you can trust to maintain your property for the duration of your trip.
There’s plenty to love about the warmest season of the year. But before you transition to full “living is easy” mode, verify that your homeowners insurance policy is ready to protect you no matter how you plan to enjoy the season.