There’s a lot to love about the holidays. From parties to presents to quality time with loved ones, ’tis the season for some of the best things that life has to offer.
But, unfortunately, ’tis also the season for a number of risks, like stolen presents, frightful weather, and decoration-induced fires, among other potential safety hazards.
In this article, we’ll guide you through how to avoid some of these risks, and explain how your renters policy can protect you if something does happen over the holiday season.
Here’s what we’ll unpack in greater detail:
Holiday decorations are the ultimate way to spread good cheer. However, they can also be really good at spreading other things…like fires.
And fires aren’t the only risks associated with decorating–the holidays also see an uptick in injuries from falls. Let’s break down some of the dangers of decking the halls, and what you can do to keep your festive home safe over the holidays.
Be careful with candles
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fires caused by candles peak in December and January. Remember that Menorah candles, Kwanzaa kinara, and other holiday candles all pose risks to your home. Follow these tips to keep your holiday celebration lit but still short of being, you know, actually ablaze.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Keep them away from pets and unsupervised children.
- Leave at least 12 inches of clearance between your candles, and flammable materials like stockings and the rest of your stuff.
Practice proper Christmas tree maintenance
- If you’ve got a live tree, set it up far away from heat sources like fireplaces and radiators.
- Water it regularly.
- Dispose of your Christmas tree as soon as the needles get brittle and start falling off–at that point it’s a true fire hazard.
- If you plan to keep your tree up for an extended period of time, then consider opting for a certified fire-retardant, artificial tree. Artificial trees are less eco-friendly, but they’re also safer and lower maintenance than real ones.
Handle your holiday lights with care
- Dispose of any lights with exposed or frayed wires.
- Use lights and extension cords designated for inside and lights and extension cords designated for outside, as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Avoid overloading extension cords–doing so can trip the breaker and cause an electrical fire.
- Don’t let your lights run for extended periods, and be especially sure to turn them off at night.
- Keep lights away from wrapping paper, which is flammable.
- If you have a metallic tree, don’t decorate it with electric lights.
Use ladders wisely
- Never stand on the top rung.
- For every four feet that you climb, move the ladder an extra foot away from the wall.
- Never climb a ladder without someone to spot you.
Keep toxic decorations away from your fur fam
- Keep your pets away from holly and mistletoe, which are toxic to them, as well as poinsettias, which can be toxic.
- Also be wary of things like tinsel, dreidels, ribbons and bows, all of which can cause intestinal blockage.
- Watch out for Christmas-tree-induced stomach aches as pine needles and tree water can upset tummies.
- To learn more about how to keep your fur fam safe over the holiday season, check out our holiday pet safety tips.
Of course, even if you take all of the precautions, accidents may still happen. Fortunately, your renters insurance has your back should a decorating disaster trigger a fire or other named peril.
Let’s say a lit candle catches on a nearby curtain, causing a minor fire to break out in your living room. In this case, your renters insurance would reimburse you for any resulting fire or smoke damages to your stuff.
And, if the fire weren’t so minor and prevented you from living in your apartment for a short period of time, your loss of use coverage might even kick in to provide temporary housing and meals while the repairs are underway.
Hosting a safe gathering
Obviously, you’re gonna wanna host a banger. And you should! Just make sure that you plan one with your guests’ safety top of mind.
(And, on a less festive note, the right party safety protocol could also protect you from a costly personal liability claim if a guest were to get injured on your property.)
Here are some general tips for safe holiday hosting:
- Keep your floors dry: Snowy boots have a way of making puddles–ask your guests to leave their boots at the door and immediately wipe away any water they trek in. You don’t want to create any slipping opportunities, especially if alcohol is in the mix.
- Childproof your home: If you don’t have children of your own, you’ll need to take a couple of extra precautions before letting in little ones. Make sure that choking hazards, like ornaments and other baubles, are stowed safely above crawling level and that cleaning products and other toxic things are out of reach of tiny hands (or mouths). If you have stairs, consider blocking them with a baby gate to prevent accidents. And, if you’re planning to host a baby for a more extended period of time, check out our baby proofing tips.
- Practice general fire safety: Fires are always a risk but especially during holiday parties where cooking and candles are used in abundance. Make sure the batteries in your smoke alarms are fresh, and, if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, keep the areas around them clear.
Cook with caution
Christmas trees and candles are certainly dangerous, but cooking fires still account for around 50% of all home fires in the U.S.
Before cooking for your guests, make sure that you’re fully up to speed on how to stay safe in the kitchen.
As you prepare your holiday feast, always keep a fire extinguisher on hand. And If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving gathering and opting for a trendy deep-fried turkey, make sure to do the deep-frying outside.
Prepping for Winter Weather
The weather these days is unpredictable. It’s hard to know if the holiday season will bring in a balmy slew of 60-degree days or a bomb cyclone.
But, should the weather turn out to be frightful, you’ll want to be prepared.
Follow these tips to protect your home from any cold-related mishaps:
- Follow our tips for winterizing your apartment. Depending on what your landlord permits, you may want to take precautions like insulating your windows and sealing the cracks between your windows and walls to keep out the cold air.
- Prevent frozen pipes. Insulation and heating tape are great ways to keep your pipes warm and toasty in winter weather. If you’re going out of town, refrain from turning your thermostat all the way down as that too can cause them to freeze. See our comprehensive guide for more tips on preventing frozen pipes. And, if a pipe does burst and causes property damage, your renters policy would likely compensate you for the damage to your stuff (although not to any structural damage to the building itself, which would be your landlord’s responsibility).
- Unplug your electronics during a power outage. Having too many things plugged in at once could cause a dangerous surge once power is restored.
- Keep your home humid. Dry air is not only bad for your health but potentially damaging to your furniture too. Doing a load of laundry and air drying your clothes can help, but you should also consider investing in a humidifier.
- Keep an emergency kit on hand. Being snowed in for the holidays actually sounds kinda romantic–but not without the proper supplies. Your kit should include a flashlight, AA batteries, an AM radio, first aid supplies, and some non-perishable snacks.
Avoiding holiday theft
Theft is a problem year-round, but you should be on especially high alert over the holidays. Whether it’s the influx of packages landing on your doorstep or your invitingly empty home, the holiday season is a burglar’s paradise.
Follow these tips to protect your stuff during the most wonderful time of the year:
- Track your incoming packages carefully, and choose to sign for them if given the option; security cameras and ring doorbells can also help discourage theft. CNBC reports that an estimated 260 million packages were stolen by so-called “porch pirates” in 2022.
- Keep valuables out of sight. If you’re out holiday shopping, make sure that no gifts are visible through the windows of your car.
- Pause mail delivery and inform your neighbors if you’re going out of town. But don’t advertise that you’re traveling to strangers on social media.
- Lock up your home, and, if your lease agreement allows it, consider installing a security system before taking a long trip. You don’t want to encourage a Home Alone situation!
If you do fall victim to holiday theft, you can at least take solace in the fact that theft is generally covered by your renters policy.
So, if your TV and audio system get snatched by a burglar while you’re out of town, your renters insurance would likely give you the money to replace them, minus your deductible.
If my stuff is stolen while I’m traveling, is it still covered by my renters policy?
Yes, you’re covered for theft, whether your stuff is stolen from your home or from wherever you’re traveling. So if a thief absconds with your designer luggage and everything inside it before you can claim it at the baggage carousel, your renters policy would likely still compensate you for the stolen stuff.
If my holiday decorations are stolen or vandalized, will my renters insurance cover the loss?
Yes, your decorations are protected by your policy’s personal property coverage, which generally protects against theft and vandalism. In the event that someone makes off with your splashy new outdoor light display, your renters insurance would probably cover the replacement costs, minus your deductible. However, it also depends on the value of your stuff: if you lose, say, $200 worth of decorations and your deductible is $250, then you would have to pay for the replacement costs out of pocket.
If my holiday decorations cause damage to my rental property, will my renters insurance cover the damages?
It depends on the cause of the damage, but renters insurance generally does not cover structural damages to your rental building itself, which should be covered by your building’s insurance policy. However, there are some cases where your personal liability coverage might help you out. For instance, if you accidentally started a fire with your holiday candles, damaging your landlord’s property, then your personal liability coverage could potentially cover you. But, in this case, your policy would only cover you if the damages to the building were caused by fire, smoke, or an explosion. It wouldn’t kick in, for example, if your decorations were to chip away at the paint on the walls of your rental property.
If I receive a really valuable holiday present, can I purchase additional coverage?
Yes, you can add an endorsement to your renters policy to schedule high-value items. Should you find yourself swept off your feet by a romantic holiday proposal, for instance, you would be able to purchase Extra Coverage to protect your engagement ring. In addition to allowing you to insure your stuff at a higher dollar amount, EC protects expensive items from additional perils not covered by your regular policy like mysterious loss and accidental damage. Just head to the Lemonade app and tap the Extra Coverage button to get started.
Before we wrap it up with a bow…
The holiday season can pose several safety risks, but, thankfully, your renters insurance has you covered in a number of less-than-jolly scenarios.
To ensure that your stuff is protected throughout the holiday season and into the new year, sign up for Lemonade renters insurance. Or, if you’ve been fortunate enough to have received some expensive new presents, consider updating your coverage.
A few quick additional words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage may not be available in all states.