Homeowner's Academy

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Home for the Holidays: How Visitors Impact Your Insurance Policy

by BROOKE GOLD HASSON | Nov 10, 2015

HolidayHouseguestsWhether you’re hosting a holiday party or accommodating out-of-town family, opening your home up to guests presents a new set of risks that you may not think of on a day-to-day basis. 

Take, for example, the Griswold family of the “Vacation” movies. In just one evening, Clark’s Christmas tree caught on fire … Aunt Bethany’s cat incinerated itself after chewing on a string of holiday lights … the dog chased a squirrel throughout the house, destroying almost everything in its path … the list goes on and on.

While your family gathering likely won’t be as disastrous as the Griswolds, there are some common houseguest hazards you should be aware of as the holiday season approaches. 

Slip-and-Fall Accidents

From slippery floors to obstructed walkways, slip-and-fall hazards pose a serious danger to houseguests. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slip-and-fall accidents are the leading cause of emergency room visits.

Are grandma and grandpa coming over? Older houseguests are at increased risk, with one in three people over the age of 65 suffering a slip-and-fall accident every year.

Dog Bites

Dog bite incidents are very common during the holiday season. Disrupted routines, constant excitement and reduced exercise can be stressful, causing even the most mild-mannered of dogs to turn on an unsuspecting family member.

Dog bite cases are quite expensive, too. In 2014, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all home insurance liability claims, costing more than $530 million.

Swimming Pool Accidents

Since we don’t exactly have to “winterize” our pools in Florida, we have a tendency to overlook swimming pool safety during cooler months. Unfortunately, swimming pool-related injuries are just as likely during the off-season.

Drownings commonly occur when a child goes in the backyard without a parent or caregiver realizing it. With a house full of guests to attend to, it’s nearly impossible to keep an eye on everyone at all times. This increases the risk of a drowning incident if the pool is not adequately secured with a safety fence or alarm.

Make Sure You’re Covered This Holiday Season

Let’s face it … accidents happen. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re covered with liability protection. Most home insurance companies offer liability coverage in case a houseguest pursues a claim or lawsuit against you for their bodily injury or property damage.

Protecting Your Personal Property

It’s equally important to make sure your personal property and valuables are covered in case a houseguest accidentally breaks something (or burns down your tree!).

A standard homeowners policy includes coverage for your personal property at Actual Cash Value, factoring in depreciation at the time of loss. If you select the Personal Property Replacement Cost coverage endorsement, for an additional premium, losses to your specific personal property will be settled at the current replacement cost without considering depreciation. 

While personal property coverage is included under most standard home insurance policies, there are a few exceptions when it comes to big-ticket items like fine jewelry.

Prepare Your Home for Holiday Houseguests

In addition to reviewing your policy, we recommend taking the following precautions before holiday houseguests arrive:

  • Make sure walkways inside and outside your home are well lit and clear of obstacles (extension cords, toys, shoes, etc.). 
  • Inspect your driveway and patio for any cracks, defects or loose pavers. Make repairs as needed.
  • Secure all rugs throughout the house.
  • Inspect wiring and cords for fraying and shock hazards. Replace as needed.
  • If you own a pool, make sure it is properly secured with a safety fence or alarm.
  • Install non-slip mats in bathtubs and showers.
  • If young children will be present, install protective gates at the top and bottom of each flight of stairs.
  • Secure valuable and/or breakable items in a locked cabinet or closet.
  • If you own a dog, consider leaving it in a bedroom, away from all the excitement.