2021 Halloween: Spooky Insurance Policies
By Michael Giusti
Insurance protects you from bumps in the night, so it is a natural thing to think about around Halloween.
Whether you are scared of what lurks in the shadows, or you are in the mood to scare someone else, or even if you want some protection from supernatural threats, Halloween and insurance go together like candy and screams.
A sad reality of Halloween tradition is the amount of vandalism and destruction that some people feel like they need to bring to the celebration.
From simple pranks to full-scale destruction, Halloween vandalism is enough to keep most homeowners up even past when their candy bowls run dry.
But if a roving gang opts for tricks, how protected is your home? Thankfully, with a standard homeowner’s policy, Halloween vandalism should be covered — after your deductible, of course.
Standard homeowner’s policies cover everything from spray paint on the garage door to egg-covered facades. And in most cases, it even protects from fire caused by errant flaming bags of poo on the porch — though some policies do specifically exclude arson, so that one is worth checking your policy language.
A sad truth of vandalism, though, is that it happens much more often on vacant homes — such as ones that are for sale. And that is where things get scary.
Often times when insurers learn that your home is vacant for a set amount of days — say 60 — they will cancel the policy. Typical homeowner’s policies are meant for places where you live. And even if the policy isn’t canceled, they often have clauses that exclude vandalism coverage for vacant properties.
So, if you do anticipate being away from your home for an extended period, make sure to talk to your agent. They can offer policies specifically designed for vacant homes, but those cost significantly more than ones covering a home you live in.
Still, even a more expensive policy will look like a bargain if a vandal hits your home.
Beyond the grave
But, since we are talking about spooky places, what about cemeteries?
If you have inherited a family headstone or other “funerary item,” a typical homeowner’s policy offers coverage there as an “insured location.”
So, if a vandal breaks your family headstone or crypt, it is likely your standard homeowner’s policy will cover the repairs.
To be extra sure you are covered, though, you should declare that cemetery plot to your agent when you buy the policy. That can avoid any questions of inheritance and ownership, and they can guide you through any nuances in your coverage.
Typical homeowner’s plans cover vandalism, theft, and even weather-related damage, which is good because lighting does strike cemeteries. Spooky.
Businesses aren’t exempt from holiday vandalism fears. In fact, businesses are vandalized every day.
Thankfully, typical business owner’s policies do cover vandalism.
That said, there are a few places you should pay attention as a business owner.
One area of concern is if the vandalism did significant damage to the building. In that case, depending on the terms of your lease, the property owner may actually be on the hook for the damage. So, if a vandal spray paints your shelves, it is probably on you and your insurance. But if an arson burns down the building, it is almost certainly on the owner (though your business owner’s policy would be on the hook for your inventory and equipment.)
One spooky question, though, comes down to your glass.
If someone chunks a pumpkin through your front window, you might be in a bit of a coverage gap. That is because a typical business policy either doesn’t cover plate or structural glass, or if they do, they require a sizeable deductible. In this case, it may make sense to take out a separate glass breakage policy, which will cover you at a much lower deductible than other policies.
If vandals do strike your home, business or funeral plot, the steps toward recover are largely similar.
First, grab your camera. Take pictures of everything to document the damage.
Then, prevent further damage. Board up windows. Move broken glass from walkways. But don’t start fixing things just yet.
Next, call the police and get a written report on the damage. This is going to be essential when you file the insurance claim.
Call your insurance agent and file that claim now that the initial steps are complete.
And finally, track all your costs. If you had to pay for something, keep a receipt. It could either be part of that insurance claim or be useful as a tax write off later.
Haunted House for hire
If your business happens to be a haunted house, or if your church or school decides to put on a haunted house as a fund raiser, securing insurance is going to be essential.
First, keep in mind that if you are charging admission, insurance gets complicated. Homeowner’s policies will not protect you from liability during business activity. And if money changes hands, it is a business activity. Furthermore, business owner’s policies may limit your protection to your primary line of business or your primary place of business. So, don’t just assume that if you have some insurance it will naturally cover everything.
And protection is essential because haunted houses are ripe for risk — and we aren’t just talking about the guy with the chainsaw (which hopefully has its chain removed).
Haunted houses are dark. They are cramped. They are full of people who are scared and hard to predict.
Think about everything that could go wrong, from trip-and-falls to assaults on the actors, to medical emergencies. And if the haunted house is put together hastily, think about all the potential fire hazards and electrical code violations.
Now realize that everyone who faces those risks could blame you if you charged them to go into the haunted house in the first place.
There are some companies that offer tailored insurance policies just for haunted houses, which are certainly worth looking at. But they aren’t the only option. Riders on a business owner’s policy might suffice. Special events policies might also work.
But don’t even think about charging admission to a haunted house without talking to an insurance agent about the risks you face and ways to protect yourself.
And make sure to get a policy that will protect you from liability, protect the premises in case of damage, and that will protect patrons and the actors in case of accidents.
While we are on the topic, Halloween risk doesn’t end with haunted houses. If you want to do any public Halloween event — pumpkin patches, hayrides, corn mazes — make sure you are thinking about your insurance options.
OK, so you want to have a haunted house or Halloween party just for your friends and family.
If you aren’t charging for admission, that does mean that your homeowner’s policy may come into play. But that doesn’t mean you should just laugh in the face of risk.
If you incur a typical party risk — accidental fires or slip-and-falls for example — your homeowner’s policy should give you plenty of protection. If you worry about facing too much liability, you can add an umbrella policy for relatively little money to bring your coverage up to $1 million or more.
If you or your family get an allergic reaction to trick-or-treat candy, your health insurance will step in and cover you.
And if your guest gets sick because of something you served, the medical coverage provision of your homeowner’s policy can cover their initial health care costs.
Also, be wary of over serving your guests. That is just good guidance. But in some states, there is also a concept called “social host liability,” which means that if someone overindulges at your party and then gets into an accident, you could be held responsible. Not all states recognize that concept.
If you do get hit with a social host liability situation, your homeowner’s insurance should protect you, but again, watch out for coverage limits, which are typically between $100,000 and $300,000 unless you have that additional umbrella policy.
Out of this world
In the spirit of the holiday, some insurance policies do take that extra step toward the paranormal.
For example, there is one policy offered by a Florida-based insurance carrier that promises to reimburse you in case you are abducted by aliens — though it does require an alien signature before it pays out.
There is also a British carrier that offers a “Spooksafe” policy, which will pay you up to $1 million if you can prove you were attacked by a supernatural being. Surprisingly, this policy is reported to have paid out at least one claim.
Paranormal practitioners can take out their own policies to protect them from professional indemnity – meaning that if someone sues them for not sufficiently exorcising their home, they may be covered.
Luckily, you probably won’t pay more to insure your own home if you have an actual ghost living with you – as long as they are a good roommate and don’t destroy things that need to be covered by an insurance claim.
From spooks prowling your neighborhood to risks facing your holiday-themed business, insurance is not the scariest thing you will deal with this Halloween.
Homeowner’s insurance covers vandalism to your home or family funeral plot. Business owner’s policies cover vandalism to your business. Specialized policies are available for haunted houses. And if you are paranormally inclined, there are even policies for you.
So, put on your costume and enjoy the holiday, but make sure you pay your premium first.