The holiday season is the time when you let your hair down and, perhaps, let your guard down, too. These behaviours may put you at a higher risk of calamity than at any other time of the year. For example, you may consume more alcohol over the holidays or stay out later partying with friends and drive home later than you normally would. Or, by simply relaxing, you may become less vigilant about security.
There are other risks you face at this time. Long-distance traveling carries its own risks, as does leaving your home unoccupied.
So, while no one wants to dampen your holiday spirits, insurers warn of the implications of these heightened risks and suggest ways of mitigating them.
If your home is to be unoccupied while you are away, there are a number of steps you can take to lower the probability of a break-in:
- Inform your security company that you will be going on holiday. Your security company will be able to arrange extra security to ensure your house is safe and secure. Supply the company with a contact number of a friend or relative in case your alarm goes off, as it won’t help for them to ring you.
- Don’t let the world know you’ll be away. For example, don’t tell the world on Face book or Twitter when you’re going away or for how long you’ll be away. It’s not only your friends who may be interested in this information. And when you are packing your car, do it behind closed doors, out of sight of the road if possible.
- Arrange for a reliable neighbour or friend to pop into your house regularly to make sure all is in order. To prevent your home from looking like a target, your friend can bring in your mail and newspapers, open or close your curtains, or even take your wheelie bin out on trash days. “It’s important, if possible, to maintain the illusion that someone is home,”
- If you can’t arrange for someone to pop in regularly, consider using or installing a timer switch to switch lights off in the mornings and on in the evenings. And if you can’t arrange either, don’t close the curtains and switch the lights on before you go – it’s a dead give-away.
Having a house-sitter will remove your worries about your home being unoccupied and what to do with your pets, but it may present other problems. Herewith some handy tips to follow:
- When using a house-sitter, it is still advisable that someone you know visits your home from time to time while you are away.
- Lock away valuables such as jewellery, items of real value.
- Clarify with the house-sitter upfront what his or her responsibilities are, and put this in writing.
- Provided the house-sitter doesn’t act irresponsibly, there should be no reason for your household cover to be compromised. But the house-sitter must ensure that the house is locked and the alarm, if you have one, is activated whenever he or she leaves the premises. If not adhered to, a claim for theft could be repudiated by your insurer if it is found there was no forced entry.
OM Insure provides the following tips to safeguard the belongings you take with you on holiday:
- It’s best not to take valuables to the beach with you. “Leave expensive jewellery, loads of cash and pricey cameras at the place where you’re staying. If you do take anything of value to the beach, make sure someone reliable keeps it in safe custody while you go off?
- Practice common sense while on holiday. Don’t carry large sums of cash on you; safely secure valuables such as cameras and laptops when you’re not using them; don’t be cavalier with money and jewellery, and be sensible when using ATMs in unfamiliar places. It’s also a good idea to find out where the closest police station is when you check into your holiday accommodation.
- Find out if your hotel or guest house offers safe storage facilities in which to keep your valuables. Don’t leave valuables lying around where people can see them.
Advice tips regarding your car – and your driving. You need to be aware of what could negatively affect the outcome of an insurance claim.
“At this time of year, there is a rise in accident statistics due to driver negligence as well as drinking and driving. Driver negligence could lead to a claim being repudiated. This means that the driver will be responsible for the damage and legal costs arising from an accident, “Also, make sure that your vehicle is checked, serviced, and roadworthy before you depart for a holiday.”
The most common reasons for a motor vehicle claim to be repudiated are:
- The vehicle is not roadworthy. For example, if tyres were badly worn, lights were not working, or windscreen wipers were inoperable when conditions demanded their use, your insurance company could repudiate your claim.
- The vehicle is overloaded to the point where steering, road-holding or braking is compromised.
- The driver of the vehicle is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of an accident.
- The driver acted negligently or in a criminal manner.
CHECK YOUR COVER
Just before you go on holiday is a good time to check that all your insurance policy details are up to date and that you are holding up your side of the policy agreements, so that, if you need to claim, it will be straightforward?
- First of all, check that the cover for your home contents is adequate – in other words, that the sum insured accurately reflects the replacement value of the entire contents of your home.
- You can also have a look at your personal liability cover, which may come in useful if you employ a house-sitter. “This would cover you against any claims against you that a house-sitter could make as a result of staying in your home – for example, if items belonging to the house-sitter are stolen during a break-in, or if he or she falls down your stairs.”
- Third, ensure that your homeowner’s insurance (for the buildings) is in order. This covers events including fire or water damage from floods or a burst geyser. “If you’re getting a house-sitter, make sure he or she has your insurance broker’s details so that if something does go wrong, they know who to call. A friend or relative serving as your emergency contact, while you are away, should also have these details.
- Fourth, check your all-risks cover, and the limits thereof, especially for items you are taking with you. Certain items of value may need to be specified or insured separately.
- Finally, if you are traveling by road, check your vehicle insurance. Amongst the things to consider are:
– If someone is sharing the driving load, will you be covered in the case of a claim? Check the policy’s terms and conditions on who can drive the vehicle.
– Ensuring you are covered for emergency breakdowns, accommodation, roadside assistance, and car hire, and upgrading your cover if necessary.
– If you are traveling with a trailer, make sure it is insured.
– If you are crossing into a neighbouring country, you’ll need the following:
– A letter from your insurance company stating that the vehicle is covered for cross-border travel.
– A letter of authorisation from the financing bank stating that the car may be driven across the border, as it is the property of the bank until it is paid off.
LETTING YOUR HOME OVER THE HOLIDAYS
For an ever-increasing number of people, the holidays mean earning additional income by renting out a spare room, or their entire house or flat to holidaymakers.
Using your personal property for commercial gain may not be covered by your personal insurance policy. “It is important to have your broker help you understand the risks you face and consider appropriate solutions, including, but not limited to, additional cover. If you rent out your property to earn extra income, it would be advisable to consider a specialist hospitality or commercial-type policy to cover your risks.”
Insurance implications of renting out your home.
“It is crucial for homeowners to check their policies to make sure they are adequately covered, to make sure the policies are up to date, and to ensure that there is nothing in the rental contract or anywhere else that could end up in a claim being delayed or repudiated. Sometimes people mistakenly think they are automatically covered in such cases when really they are not.”
“If you’d like to rent out the extra rooms in your home, you can take additional optional cover for accidental damage to your household contents – for example, if your plasma television falls and breaks,”
If you are renting out your property over the festive season, you should:
- Inform your insurer and check the conditions of your insurance policy.
- Clarify upfront, preferably in a written rental agreement, both your responsibilities and liabilities and those of your tenant.
- Advise your broker, who should be of help in ensuring everything is in order.
Letting rooms considerably increases your risk of loss or damage, and you are exposed to liability claims from paying guests.
One thing for sure – you are not automatically responsible for injuries to people living in your house, and you shouldn’t accept blame before discussing the matter with your broker or insurer.
Please feel free to connect with me if you need any further information that may assist you in ensuring your festive holidays is not derailed by you not taking ownership of your own situation?