Behind their charming facades, our homes hide an inner holiday Grinch. Flickering candles? Fire hazard. Snow-dusted walkway? Think slip and fall. Pyramid of presents? Burglary bait.
Check to see if you’re covered before the humbug hits.
From dehydrated Christmas trees to overworked outlets, the halls are decked with fire hazards this time of year. Candle fires, in particular, hit their annual peak on Christmas, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Allstate’s median home fire claim during the holiday season is about $70,000, says Glenn Shapiro, the company’s chief claims officer.
Covered by: Within homeowners insurance, dwelling coverage pays for home repairs, and personal property insurance covers belongings.
Wrap it up: Ask your insurer for help pinpointing your home’s rebuilding cost. “It could be years since you bought the policy, and building costs may have increased,” Shapiro says. If the reconstruction cost exceeds your dwelling insurance amount, boost your limits accordingly.
Theft is a common source of holiday homeowners insurance claims, Shapiro says. In some cases, our own behavior fuels the problem. For instance, two in three people have gifts delivered despite not being home to receive them, according to a 2015 Allstate survey.
Covered by: Personal property insurance covers stolen items. This can include packages plucked from your stoop, says Chris Hackett, senior director of personal lines at trade group Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. To make a claim, you’ll need to file a police report.
However, if only a couple of items go missing you might not benefit from a claim, Hackett cautions, because the payout could be less than your deductible.
Wrap it up: Consider lowering your personal property coverage deductible. Although your rates would rise, your insurance would stretch further if you need to make a claim.
Say you undercook dinner and send relatives to the hospital. Or maybe someone breaks a hip on your icy walkway. You could end up on the hook for medical costs when you host holiday get-togethers.
Covered by: The medical payments coverage within home insurance pays for injuries that guests sustain on your property. You also have liability insurance in case you’re sued, Shapiro says.
Wrap it up: Insurance limits for medical payments are usually low when you buy your policy, Hackett says. A bare-minimum policy pays about $1,000 per person, making this good coverage to beef up before welcoming the holiday herd.
Damage from frozen pipes
Leaving home can be as problematic as playing host. As an example, Shapiro points to insurance claims involving frozen pipes. If an unoccupied house gets too frosty, water freezes and expands inside the pipes, increasing chances of a burst.
Covered by: Water damage from burst pipes is covered by standard home insurance, Hackett says, including damage to your house and soaked belongings.
Wrap it up: Check the fine print in your policy regarding frozen pipes. You might need to take certain preventive action before vacations to make a claim, such as shutting off your water or leaving the heat on.