Home Insurance Loopholes Can Leave You Howling on Halloween
In one month, ghouls, goblins and The Little Mermaid will be at your front door. Are you prepared?
We aren't talking candy-bought, decorations-up prepared. We mean, what happens if Glenda the Good Witch breaks her arm or your house is egged? Are you covered for that? Or will a night of tricks and treats become an expensive horror?
Note: Not all insurance policies are created equal! The following guidelines are standard, but there are exceptions. It's important to get to know your insurance policy before you have to file a claim.
Here are three possible Halloween problems, and the skinny on what is and isn't covered by a typical policy.
Trick-or-Treater Slips and Falls: Trick-or-treating can be really exciting! So exciting that little kids run and trip. And fall. Fortunately, most homeowner policies provide liability coverage if someone is injured%VIRTUAL-pullquote-If you had a bonfire in your living room, that's negligence. If you're planning an ambitious flame display this year, check with your insurance company to determine how they define "negligence."% on your property. The standard amount per occurrence is $100,000, but you may be able to increase this amount depending on your policy.
Tip: To prevent this from happening, it's important to prepare your house for Halloween! Plenty of lights and a clear walkway will decrease the likelihood of an accident.
The Potential Loophole: If you're sued because of the accident, your policy may also pay to defend you in court. But keep in mind that you're typically only covered for negligence. You aren't covered for intentional injuries -- meaning if little Glenda the Good Witch hurts little Kevin the cowboy, you won't be covered!
Jack-o-Lantern Catches Fire: Do you light your jack-o-lantern with a candle? If so, you're not alone. Over the last three years, an average of 15,500 fires per year were caused by an open-flamed jack-o-lantern, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Fortunately, most homeowner policies cover fire from a lit candle or a string of decorative electrical lights. If the fire displaces your family, insurance will typically cover the cost of additional living expenses.
The Potential Loophole: Coverage may be limited due to "negligence" depending on the origin of the fire -- for example, if you had a bonfire in your living room, that's negligence. If you're planning an ambitious flame display this year, check with your insurance company to determine how they define "negligence."
"Tricks" Dent Your Siding: For the most part, "trick-or-treat" is heavy on the treat part. But, not always. Sometimes, tricks happen, too. And next thing you know, your house is egged (or worse), and there's damage to your siding!
If this happens to you, it's considered vandalism under most standard insurance policies, which means you will be protected. If the repair cost exceeds your deductible for vandalism, the insurance company will cover the repairs. If you're concerned about any mischief on Halloween, double-check your homeowners insurance policy to make sure vandalism is covered.
The Potential Loophole: Many policies don't cover vandalism if a property has been vacant for 30 days or more. If you're planning an extended trip or have a second home, speak with an agent about the vandalism portion of your policy.