All you need to know about holiday decorations and home insuranceBy: Zandile Chiwanza on December 20, 2022
This article has been updated from a previous version.
From trees and lights to candles and ornaments, many homeowners decorate their properties in preparation for Christmas. While these items bring joy, they can also pose a risk to your home and those inside it. For instance, Christmas trees and lights can catch fire, and the extra electrical cords used for these decorations can be tripping hazards.
If you’ve already decked the halls, you might want to take a closer look at your home insurance policy and see what coverage you have for things like fires, high-value gifts, and personal liabilities.
Am I covered if my Christmas decorations cause a fire?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were an average of 160 Christmas-tree-related home fires in the U.S. per year between 2016 and 2020. Most house fires occur between December 15 and 31, the NFPA says, and Christmas trees account for 29% of those holiday fires. In particular, dried-out Christmas trees cause more than 29% of home fires that occur in January.
Just last year, dry Christmas trees caused two fatal fires in Ontario, killing five people and Nova Scotia reported an average of three to four fires resulting from dry Christmas trees.
Typically, if you have a standard home insurance policy and your Christmas tree or any other holiday decorations causes a fire in your home, you should be covered.
“Fire is an insured peril under a standard home insurance policy, and there is no exclusion pertaining to Christmas trees or holiday decorations,” says Elektra Hilton, director of operations at HUB International.
How to prevent a fire inside your home during the holidays
Every year, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) promotes an initiative called 12 Days of Holiday Fire Safety to raise awareness of household hazards during the holiday season. In the past, it has provided Christmas tree safety advice to help prevent fires: “Keep your tree away from any ignition source such as the fireplace, heaters, or candles.”
But even after the holiday season is over, there are still things to consider for your safety and your home’s protection. For instance, dried out Christmas trees are a known fire hazard and shouldn’t be left on your property without a proper disposal plan. Check with your local fire department to find the best way to discard it safely.
The OAFC also recommends that homeowners check all sets of lights before decorating and discard any damaged sets.
“Overloaded power bars and outlets can also lead to holiday fires, so this is something homeowners should keep in mind,” adds Hilton.
She reminds homeowners to make sure they have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Plus, if you have a monitored fire alarm system installed in your home, you could be eligible for a discount, home insurance depending on your provider.
Fire shouldn’t be your only concern this holiday season
There are other hazards to consider during the holiday season.
“Many people have cords running all over the place,” says Hilton. “This could cause people to trip, which would be a liability loss.”
The good news is, a standard home insurance policy also covers personal liability up to a certain amount, should you be sued for an injury sustained on your property.
Hilton also suggests considering your home insurance limits around the holidays. All those expensive gifts under your tree, for instance, may not be covered in the event they’re damaged or stolen.
“Especially if its jewelry or other items of high value,” says Hilton, “[these items] may have specific [coverage] limits that [policyholders] are not aware of, and they may want to check to see if their gift is adequately covered in the event of a fire or other loss.”
Although home insurance is optional in Canada, it’s a wise investment to protect your home and personal belongings. If you’ve opted to go without home insurance, you’ll have to pay for the damages out of pocket in the event of a fire or any other hazard.
But try to avoid making an unnecessary claim. Once you make a home insurance claim, your premium will likely increase. If you’ve made frequent claims in the past, it indicates to the insurance company that you’re a riskier customer, and you could pay more. So, you’ll have to decide if the claim is worth it.
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