Just because many of us come in lockdown this holidays does not mean the festive spirit is dampened for everyone. From trees and lights to candles and ornaments, many homeowners continue to be decorating their houses when preparing for a pandemic Christmas even if they can't gather with friends and family.
While these items are certain to spark some joy at a dark time, they can pose a danger to your house and people within it. For instance, Christmas trees and lights can catch fire, and also the extra electrical cords these decorations demand can make tripping hazards.
If you've already decked the halls, you might want to take a closer look at your home insurance plan and find out what coverage you have for such things as fires, high-value gifts, and personal liability.
Am I covered if my Christmas decorations cause a fire?
Although property insurance is optional in Canada, homeowners insurance is really a savvy investment to ensure your house and private belongings are safe. If you decide to go without them you will need to purchase the damages out-of-pocket in the event of a fireplace or other hazard.
According towards the National Fire Protection Association, there have been 210 Christmas-tree-related home fires each year between 2010 and 2021. Most house fires occur between December 15 and 31, the NFPA says, and Christmas trees take into account 29% of these holiday fires. Dried-out Christmas trees, in particular, cause more than 29% of home fires that occur in January.
Generally speaking, in case your Christmas tree or any other excersize equipment causes a fire in your home, and you have a typical home insurance policy, you ought to be covered.
“Fire is definitely an insured peril within standard home insurance policy and there's no exclusion regarding Christmas trees or holiday decorations,” says Elektra Hilton, director of operations at DirectRate.ca.
Every year the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs promotes an initiative known as 12 Times of Holiday Fire Safety to boost awareness on household hazards throughout the holidays. On Day 1, the OAFC provides some Christmas tree safety advice to help prevent fire: “Keep your tree from any ignition source such as the fireplace, heaters or candles.”
But despite the holiday season is over, there are still things to consider for your safety and to protect your house. For example, dried-out Christmas trees are a known fire hazard and should not remain in your yard without a proper disposal plan. Seek advice from the local fire department to get the best methods to safely discard it.
The OAFC also addresses light safety in the awareness campaign and recommends that homeowners check all sets of lights before decorating and discard any sets which are damaged.
“Overloaded power bars and outlets may also lead to holiday fires, making this something homeowners ought to keep in mind,” adds Hilton.
She reminds homeowners to ensure they have working smoke and deadly carbon monoxide alarms. Plus, depending on your home insurance carrier, you could be eligible for a discount if you have a monitored fire alarm system installed in your house.
Fire really should not be your only concern this holiday season
Whether you're putting up or taking down Christmas decorations, there are more hazards to consider than fire.
“Many people have cords running all over the place,” says Hilton. “This might cause individuals to trip, which may be considered a liability loss.”
The good news is, a standard home insurance policy also covers personal liability up to and including certain amount, for anyone who is sued for a personal injury sustained on your property.
Hilton also suggests considering your insurance limits around the holidays. All those expensive gifts beneath your tree, for instance, may not be covered in case they're damaged or stolen.
“Especially because it pertains to jewelry or any other components of quality value,” says Hilton, “they might have specific limits with their policy that they are unaware of and wish to determine if their gift is adequately covered in case of a fire or any other loss.”
Our experts also suggest that homeowners avoid making a pointless claim. Once you make a property insurance claim, your premiums will probably increase. If you have made frequent claims in the past, it might indicate towards the insurance provider how risky a person you may be and you can pay more. So you'll have to decide if the claim is worth it.