Little ghouls, goblins and ghosts will soon be on your doorstep looking for treats and hopefully not pulling any tricks. But even visiting witches, pirates and cowboys with the best of intentions could leave you holding a bag filled with an expensive home insurance claim. And that claim could send your rate soaring through the roof.
“Even one home insurance claim can have a negative effect on your home insurance rates,” says Billy Van Jura, an insurance broker in Poughkeepsie, New York. “I’ve seen small claims of less than $500 trigger a $1,000 rate increase.”
Look out for these dangers that could cast a black cloud on your rates and budget:
Pint-sized pumpkins and princesses wearing masks or bulky costumes can be a little off balance as they walk (run?) across your front yard or porch. And if they collide, fall down your front steps or trip and fall in your yard over their candy-filled pillowcase, you could wind up filing an insurance claim for any resulting stitches, cast or splint.
Even worse, you could find yourself facing a lawsuit for negligence if your property isn’t well-maintained. And because your home insurance policy allows for coverage (up to stated limits) to defend you in such a lawsuit and to pay for damages awarded the plaintiff, a lawsuit is sure to send your rates soaring.
Scare away this monster: A young visitor (or an adult) who injures himself on your property due to tripping over candy or two left feet or because of a mask typically does not open the door for a negligent claim. But if someone is falls as a result of the condition of your home or your decorations, your wallet could be in jeopardy. Van Jura says an unsafe entryway (such as broken steps, splinters sticking up, wobbly railings) could be considered negligent. Decorations also may open the door to a lawsuit if wires powering lights or anchoring inflatables laid across the front lawn cause a person to trip.
Hazardous Haunted Houses
Thinking of turning your house into the scariest one on the street? Before you convert your home, shed, yard or garage into a haunted house or maze, take time to assess the potential for ghoulish homeowner’s insurance claims.
Keep all walkways free and clear of trip hazards like wires, rugs, slippery wet leaves and bales of hay. Advise all scary creature workers or volunteers that it’s OK to scare visitors, but it’s not OK to grab, touch, tackle or shake them.
And make sure to provide plenty of adult supervision to remind little ones to walk — not run — or to keep watch for swinging bats around piñatas.
Scare away this monster: Purchasing a one-time special event policy is the best way to prevent a Halloween party from scaring your home insurance rates. Companies like TheEventHelper sell coverage for haunted events and other parties that protect you (and your traditional home insurance rates) in the event someone is injured or your property is damaged at your haunted house.
The cost for a one-time event policy varies based on the amount of coverage desired and your location. However, a policy for $1 million of liability coverage (which includes bodily injury and damage to property) is generally less than $200.
Drunken Party Ghouls
Before inviting neighbors and pals over for a monster ball, take stock of the batty brews you plan on serving guests. Partygoers who overdo it on the spirits served at your house and get into an accident after leaving your house could scare your home insurance rates.
According to Van Jura, homeowners have the responsibility to not allow someone who is intoxicated or under the influence of illegal substances to drive away from their home. Even if your guest leaves on two feet but trips or passes out hitting his head on the way down, you could be facing a pricey home insurance claim.
“Depending on the claim and circumstances, your home insurance could be canceled,” says Van Jura.
In the same way bars and restaurants are liable and must oversee how many spooky spirits a person is served, homeowners hosting a party must keep an eye on alcohol consumption. “Allowing a drunk driver to leave your home could be considered negligent because the guest was served at your home,” says Van Jura.
Scare away this monster: When you extend the invitation to your Halloween ball, tell all party guests that you’re happy to call them a cab if needed, but you won’t be allowing any drunken Draculas to drive home. Collect everyone’s keys as they walk in the door, and assign the task of gatekeeper to a designated sober reveler.
In all of these scary circumstances, the exact rate increase you could face depends on the severity of the claim and amount paid out as well as your past home insurance claim history. Van Jura says the best way to protect your home insurance rates and budget is to take a few frighteningly easy precautions this fall.
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