Are you fully covered for Christmas?

A house bedecked with gaudy christmas lights
Frank and Ertha's Christmas display was the envy of the entire street
“It is unfortunate that Christmas is a time when you don’t just hear Santa’s footsteps in your house, you might hear an intruder’s footsteps too” Ian Crowder, AA Insurance
  • | by Dave Jenkins

‘Tis the season to be jolly… Unless you’ve been at the sore end of a festive crime, a not-so-merry mishap or unfortunate seasonal weather. Then good will flickers out like a pound shop advent candle and you’re straight on the blower to your insurers.

But are you fully covered for Christmas? And what calamities can you help to avoid yourself?

According Sainsbury’s Home Insurance, on the first week of January 2012 they received 37% more home insurance claims than any other week. They’re not alone; all insurance companies suffer a post-Christmas claims barrage. Incidents can be broken down simply to crime and damage. Luckily there are ways to help keep certain problems at bay…

Christmas Time...Mistletoe & Crime?

Unfortunately some take the ‘season of giving’ concept too literally… Thieves and burglars are at their busiest during this time of year. The police statistics speak for themselves. For example, a total of 2682 burglaries were reported to Essex Police in November and December 2011 while a considerably lower total of 2094 were reporting during September/October 2011.

“It is unfortunate that Christmas is a time when you don’t just hear Santa’s footsteps in your house, you might hear an intruder’s footsteps too,” says Ian Crowder, spokesman for AA Insrance. That’s if you’re around to hear them…

Crime at home

With the onslaught of family members comes an increase of contents. Be it extra belongings, presents or cars, there’s plenty of added attraction to undesirables.

For this reason, almost all insurance companies increase their home contents cover over the festive holiday. Some raise it by 10% per cent, others by as much as 20%. Check with your insurer to understand exactly how much cover you have in place and increase it if necessary.

• Take pictures of all new purchases (paying close attention to serial numbers for identification) and keep all receipts.

• Contact your insurers and list specific items if they’re especially valuable.

• After the big day, store all packaging inside the house and take to the tip when it re-opens. Do not leave it outside your house… Nothing says ‘burgle me!’ than a pile of flattened fancy electronic goods boxes.

• Be wary of any large amounts of cash. Unlike presents, there is no receipt and most insurers will only cover for a nominal amount (the AA, for example, cover for £500 cash).

• Keep all car keys in a safe place, away from any open windows, doors or your letter box. New cars are especially popular with thieves. The only way they can steal them is with the keys; often burglars aren’t looking for large, pricey swag, just car keys and any personal identity documents they can pick up along the way.

• Don’t leave your front door unlocked! Whether you’re popping next door for a sociable sherry or suffering an absence of mind and leaving your car to tick over while it thaws out, you will not be covered for either of these incidents.

Crime away

This unfortunate scenario comes in two forms… Crime that happens while you’re away and crime that happens to you while away. Surprisingly both will involve your home insurance policy.

• Review your security; most insurers now require your main exit door to have a five lever mortis deadlock.

• While you’re away… Ensure ALL doors and windows are locked. Leave timers on lights and radios. Lock away all possessions and shred unnecessary personal documents.

• If you’re travelling over Christmas ring your insurers and check your belongings are covered outside your home. If it’s in place it will cover the value of gifts you’re taking overseas with you.

Interestingly, travel insurance tends to have a very low value set on personal belongings. Using your home insurance cover means you can reduce the cost of your travel insurance policy. Most travel insurance companies won’t ask you about this, so make sure you ask them.

Christmas damage

If it’s not the pesky criminals trying to dampen your festive spirits, it’s mother nature… Or even yourself! Damage is a big cause for home insurance claims over Christmas. In fact it’s THE biggest cause.

Weather damage

Figures from the Association Of British Insurers tallied frozen pipe claims to 3,500 per day last winter during the coldest snaps. If you’re going away, be sure to…

• Check the pipes are lagged properly

• Keep your loft door open slightly to let the warm air circulate

• Time the heating to come on at the coldest points of the night

• Check if insulation has been replaced if you’ve had any building work over the summer

• Arrange for a neighbour or friend to visit each day. So if the pipes do burst then damage can be limited as much as possible.
Another thing to bear in mind is your accidental damage cover. Check with your insurers to see if it’s in place.

Home insurance will cover for acts of nature, but accidents that happen as a result of a natural event might not be. For example, a gale can knock slates off your roof. This will be covered. But if rain comes through and ruins the ceiling, that might not be covered as it’s a consequence of the original event. Accidental bi-products primary causes aren’t always included in your cover.

Accidental damage

Did you know Christmas trees cause an estimated 950 accidents every year? Or that almost 2000 fires happen each yuletide as a result of careless candle handling?  Accidents really do happen - just take a look at those ABI stats. Especially when a little Christmas spirit is involved. This is why accidental cover extension is a wise addition to your policy.

 • Be careful in the kitchen, according to the Association Of British Insurers, over 161,000 accidents happen as a result of cooking equipment during Christmas.

• Keep valuables out of reach of bored children, especially if they’ve had a new football from Santa

• Check your fairy lights and be sure to pack them away properly once you’ve finished. A split wire from poor, tangled packaging is all you need to cause a fire.

Hopefully all of this will be irrelevant and your Christmas will be fun, enjoyable and crime and damage free. If you’re concerned about your level of cover ring your insurer before the festive bombardment begins...