The festive season is a great time of the year because, generally, everyone is in a good mood. There’s plenty of food, wine and song (even if out of tune and repetitive). What’s more, during the celebrations, we get to take some time off and enjoy conversations with friends and family that we’ve perhaps not had the chance to catch up with for a while.
There’s no work stress because this is generally the time families get together for a bit of fun. With such a relaxed atmosphere we can almost be forgiven for being so relaxed that we throw some caution to the wind. But the holidays are precisely the time when we need to be a bit more vigilant in order that we and our personal belongings stay safe.
Here’s a few friendly tips of advice that we should be imparting to our clients over the festive period so that they have a safer Christmas:
Think carefully before throwing a house party: According to Sainsbury’s Bank Home Insurance some 37% of people plan to host a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party this year. However, around a quarter of people have had items damaged or stolen while throwing a party. The bank’s research reveals that the average cost of stolen items during a party is higher than those damaged (£565 vs £192.20). Of those who said items had been stolen during a party in the last five years, 8% have had items worth over £1,000 go missing following the gathering.
Useful tip: Remember to tell them that contents stolen or damaged by invited guests may not be covered under home insurance policies! Perhaps advise them to have smaller, more intimate gatherings with people they trust to respect their things. Tell your clients not to boast about the event on social media. According to Sainsbury’s, 10% of people say unwanted guests have turned up to parties after their partner highlighted it on the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc. Rather opt for casual affair with close friends and family.
Don’t let burglars spoil the Christmas fun: Christmas is a festive time where people get into the swing of parties and gatherings. However, criminals also take advantage of the extra presents under the tree and the fact that people are more relaxed and not as careful this time of the year.
Useful tip: Make sure it’s as difficult as possible for the thieves to get their way. Tell your clients not to advertise the fact that they will not be at home. Tell them to keep boasts about exotic trips to Thailand for after they’ve come back from the holiday. They must check if they’ve locked up behind themselves when leaving their properties – even if they are just popping out to share some eggnog with a neighbour.
Gifts and valuable possessions should be kept out of sight away from the windows and keys should not be easily accessible or hidden in easy to find spaces like letterboxes or under door mats.
Also check to see if their contents insurance policies provided extra seasonal cover and make any adjustments for the New Year.
Adequate insurance cover is important during this time of the year where thieves look for easy, expensive pickings. Anyone who’s fortunate enough to receive an expensive item should check their contents insurance for what it says about the ‘single item limit’. Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, explains: “This limit is usually £1,000 or £1,500 and is the most the policy will pay out for the loss of any single item unless that item is listed separately. So, if you are given jewellery or electronic equipment valued above the limit, you need to contact your insurer so you can add it to your policy.”
It’s important to reaffirm that the increase in cover offered by most insurers during Christmas is only temporary. So make sure home contents policies are updated in the New Year.
Warn them about leaving expensive shopping items in cars: When we’re busy shopping and going from one store to another, it’s completely normal to stow heavy items away in the car so that we’re free to carry more. But this is where the danger lies. According to M&S Bank, shoppers will spend nearly £700 in total on Christmas presents this year - £100 more than last year. Festive shoppers will make between three and four trips to the shops to stock up for Christmas with the main shopping trip expected to increase their car’s contents by over £550 on average. But are they insured for this should the worst happen?
Paul Stokes, head of products at M&S Bank explains: “It’s often overlooked that the contents of your vehicle can prove a real target for opportunistic thieves, particularly at Christmas time. That’s why we’re urging shoppers to make sure they’ve got adequate car insurance to cover their Christmas shopping, should the worst happen.”
Useful tip: Check clients’ car insurance policy – make sure they know what the policy does and doesn’t cover. Some insurers do cover shopping contents that are kept in cars but there may be some terms and conditions attached. For example, in addition to £200 cover for personal belongings, M&S Car Insurance includes an extra £300 cover purchases, provided it is for items bought at M&S stores and that the incident occurs within 24 hours of the items being bought. While insurers may offer cover for stolen contents out of a car, it would help to keep receipts separate so that claimants have proof of what they purchased.
Get the right type of travel cover: Find out if your clients are going away on holiday. They’ll need the right type of cover for the event and this all depends on their chosen mode of transportation and the type of holiday they decide to go on.
Useful tip: If they’re taking a road trip advise on the right kind of breakdown cover. They would hardly want to be stranded on the side of the road in treacherous weather conditions. If they’re flying abroad, make sure they have adequate travel insurance that meets their needs. According to Defaqto, there are around 939 single trip travel insurance policies on the market but less than 12% cover winter sports as standard. If your clients are getting their ski gear ready to hit the slopes make sure they are not left out of pocket and that they fully understand the travel cover they have purchased.
“Skiing holidays are growing in popularity thanks to the boom in cheap flights going to the continent. However, winter sports holidays can be much riskier than a standard beach holiday as you are more likely to get a serious injury or damage expensive ski equipment. If you are planning a winter sports break, it’s vital you check your insurance covers you for this just in case the worst happens,” says Brian Brown, head of insight at Defaqto.
Make sure they have the right income protection cover: Would your clients know what to do if their main breadwinner was so injured that they would have to take a few weeks or months off from work? Would they be able to afford the bills, let alone the Christmas presents if something like that were to happen at this time of the year?
Useful tip: Make sure that individuals as well as businesses have the right kind of cover in place should there be injuries, disabilities or even death. Individuals should ensure they have disability and life insurance cover should the worst happen.
But businesses need to plan ahead too. New research from Royal London shows that over half of all British SMEs don’t protect their business against the loss of a key employee. This is mainly because there’s a lack of awareness for this type of cover. Key Person Income Protection covers this situation by providing a monthly income while the key employee is unavailable to work and offers financial support while managers go in search for a replacement.
Reduce the likelihood of accidents in the home: We’ll all be spending a lot more time at home at this time of the year and we’re bound to be more relaxed and complacent about the things we do and leave behind on the floor. But the misplaced Transformer toy on the stairway can easily cause someone to slip. Alternatively, the burning candles, faulty fairy lights, spilled wine glasses and that venture up to the roof to get the Christmas decorations down could prove all hazardous and cause a lot of damage.
Useful tip: Make sure the usual home contents insurance cover is in place and would adequately cover accidents and other things that are beyond the control of homeowners, such as burst pipes or freezers failing which may result in all the Christmas food spoiling. Find out if your client’s appliances are old and encourage them to buy new ones, if necessary. If Christmas presents are a priority there’s no harm in getting them to do a thorough safety check or to get appliances fixed. It’s always best to be safe than sorry!