Halloween is a good opportunity to dress up and engage in spooky debauchery. It’s also the holiday where hoards of children scamper onto your property in search of the one sacred childhood currency: candy.
This actually presents a scary situation you may not think about—a potentially expensive Halloween-related lawsuit. Any accidents that happen on your property during the spookiest day of the year is a liability risk for homeowners, so it’s important to make sure you have enough homeowners insurance.
Here are some Halloween-related risks you should be aware of as a homeowner.
Expect a frightening uptick in property crime
Halloween is a day where you can cosplay as your favorite movie villain. It is also a holiday that many interpret as a free pass to wreak havoc on whatever’s in sight. From egging your front door to throwing toilet paper on your foliage to smashing the windows of your home or car, Halloween presents the potential for property damage.
Halloween sees an average 24% more crime-related claims than any other day of the year. Of those claims, 19% are for vandalism and mischief, 21% are for off-premises theft and 60% are for on-premises theft.
If your home or car are vandalized or burglarized, be sure to check your policy deductible to determine if it’s worth filing a claim with your insurer. For example, if a gang of hobgoblins damage $2,000 worth of property and your deductible is $1,500, it might not be worth filing an insurance claim over.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay $1,500 before you’ll be reimbursed for the remainder of the loss, so you’d only get $500 from your insurance company. Frequent claims can also increase your insurance premiums.
Premises liability is a hair-raising concern
Halloween also means a bunch of neighbors duking it out to see who has the scariest decorations. That intricate LED-light display and giant robotic Grim Reaper sculpture will draw crowds, but it could also prove to be a hazard.
As the homeowner, you need to consider “premises liability,” meaning if a trick-or-treater trips on its extension cord and injures themselves, you’ll be on the hook for injury or legal expenses if they have medical bills or decide to sue.
Pay attention to the types of decorations you have and make sure they’re safe for everyone. Strobe lights can cause seizures for people with epilepsy, and fog machines can cause asthma attacks for people who have asthma. Be aware of food safety hazards as well. If you’re handing out a treat that contains nuts, explain that to the eager candy recipients or have a sign on your front door that lists its ingredients. Taking that extra bit of safety precaution, along with keeping the walkway to your home clear and leashing your dog, will make your November 1st less nightmarish.
If an injury on your property was an accident, it will likely be covered by personal liability coverage in your homeowners insurance policy. If you only have the minimum $100,000 in coverage, consider raising the liability limits from anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000 to protect all of your assets in the event of a lawsuit, or consider a separate umbrella policy for extra liability coverage.
Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep ... until you’ve blown out all of the candles
Nothing quite screams festive more than a flaming jack-o’-lantern illuminating the entrance of your home on Halloween night. It’s one of the oldest and most well-established Halloween traditions in the book, but it is also an enormous fire hazard.
Decorations were the first items to be ignited in 840 home fires in 2016, resulting in a total of $11.4 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
It may be tempting to light your pumpkins the old-fashioned way, with real fire. But you can minimize that risk entirely and still provide the same spooky effect using battery-powered bulbs.
If your home is set ablaze because of Halloween decorations, your homeowners insurance will cover the damage up to the coverage limit in your policy. Make sure your home is covered for its full replacement cost in the event of a total fire loss.
Want even more spooky money facts? Here are eight scary credit myths, debunked.
Image: JP Valery