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As Americans prepare to deck the halls and stuff the turkey, homeowners should make sure to avoid common mistakes that cause claims during the holidays. Unlike the fallout from Halloween mischief, holiday insurance claims tend to be caused by homeowners themselves.
Bill Martin, president at Plymouth Rock Home Assurance, told Business Insider that cooking accidents are the most common claims filed during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. He advised against deep frying turkeys indoors or in the garage, and said that not following manufacturer instructions for deep frying a turkey can cause the turkey to explode and set structures on fire. He also noted that cooktop fires are common; don’t forget to set the cook timer and regularly check items in the oven and on the stovetop.
Martin offered Business Insider more tips to safely decorate your home, securely shop online, and avoid fires caused by exploding turkeys.
7 common homeowners insurance claims you can avoid this holiday
“Homeowners insurance policies are becoming the hub and umbrella of insurance coverage,” Martin told Business Insider, because they offer coverage for so many different scenarios.
Below are Martin’s tips to avoid becoming a victim of theft or property damage during the holidays.
1. Fire hazards
A dry Christmas tree is a fire hazard. Make sure you have a sturdy base to avoid a tipping hazard. If you decorate a tree with candles, don’t light the candles. If you are lighting a menorah, have it in a safe place.
2. Accidents and electrical hazards
Be careful using a ladder or staple gun to secure decorations. Make sure the ladder is stable. Use care securing electrical cords and wires with a staple gun, because improper usage can cause electrical related accidents.
Unstable roof decorations fall on people. Be careful attaching lights to gutters, because the gutters can fall with too much weight. Be sure to properly anchor decorations so a strong wind doesn’t them blow away or knock them down.
4. Online shopping
Many homeowners insurance policies offer coverage for cyber exposure, also referred to as identity theft coverage. Package theft from your property is usually covered. If your homeowners insurance doesn’t include coverage for cyber exposure, it may be optional coverage that you can add on.
5. Cyber liability
If you accidentally release a virus or say something wrong online – cyber liability coverage helps. In the event of a ransomware attack, cyber liability coverage will replace equipment. If you are sued for saying something online, cyber liability coverage can offer protection. Cyber liability may already be in your homeowners policy or it may be optional coverage. Check with your homeowners insurance provider.
Unfortunately, hosting people for the holidays sometimes means items go missing. Most homeowners insurance policies have limits for electronic equipment. If you have high-end electronics or special jewelry like wedding rings and family heirlooms, you may want to get separate cover for those items via an add-on rider.
Homeowners insurance providers might cover hosts for liquor at parties. Plymouth Rock offers additional coverage through its “get home safe” program where homeowners can send guests home in a ride-share vehicle. The program varies state by state for homeowners policies.
Note that optional add-on coverage is treated differently by providers, so it is important to contact your homeowners insurance to see what is included already, and what is optional coverage you can add.
COVID-19 safety tips for holidays
Due to COVID-19, households may have others staying with them to quarantine. If you will, Martin recommended reaching out to your homeowners insurance provider to make sure the activities of those individuals are covered. For example, if the person is elderly or in need of care, make sure you have enough liability coverage. If the person staying with you during quarantine has a home-based business, inform your homeowners insurance. Typically, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover home-based businesses and requires additional coverage.
Because we are spending more time at home due to the coronavirus, he said, there is more usage of equipment and a higher likelihood of accidents. Ask your homeowner insurance provider if you have “equipment breakdown” coverage for your heating and cooling systems.
And if you are inviting people to your home for the holidays, make sure walkways aren’t slippery, he continued. Be sure to put down salt or put up signs to avoid injury from ice or snow.
Call your homeowners insurance before you have to
As you prepare for the holiday season and practice social distancing, make sure your home, guests, and gifts are protected. If you are concerned whether you have proper coverage against liability, property damage, and theft, contact your homeowners insurance agent and discuss your coverage before you need to make a claim.
If you’re looking to switch your homeowners insurance provider, remember a cheap price doesn’t mean good customer service. Focus on customer satisfaction rankings, like those from J.D. Power, and comparison shop to find the best coverage for you. Business Insider has compiled a list of the best homeowners insurance companies — you may want to start there.