Hazards Lurk During the Holidays for NYC Renters

Common sense is the best defense against gift theft, accidental fires

Here’s another holiday list: Tick off the number of bad things that can happen during the season that could lead to an insurance claim.

You are out buying expensive gifts, and you get mugged on the street. You order your presents from Amazon, and somebody lifts them from your doorstep. You try to start a fire and discover your chimney flue is closed or clogged, and the smoke backs up into your home, setting off the alarm and ruining your clothes. Your magnificent tree catches fire. Need we go on?

So as you work through your holiday lists, reviewing your insurance to understand how you’d fare in some of these common holiday scenarios isn’t a bad idea.

One of the biggest threats during the holidays is theft, especially off-premises theft. Thieves keep their eyes open for presents left carelessly in cars or on stoops, and in many states, off-premises theft comes automatically with homeowners or renters insurance. But not in New York. A rash of muggings and resulting claims in the city during the 1970s and 80s prompted insurance companies drop the automatic coverage, which means it costs extra here.

Usually, for off-premises theft coverage in downstate New York, including New York City, you have to pay a lot more — generally an additional 20 percent on your premiums for homeowners insurance, and as much as 40 percent more for renters. We advise our clients to buy off-premises theft insurance only if they do a lot of traveling with expensive electronics, like computer and camera or video equipment. For everyone else, its usually not worth it — but that means its that much more important for you to not tempt thieves by leaving visible packages in your car or anywhere else conspicuous. Put those presents in the trunk. If you’re on the subway or commuter train, have them with you at all times. If you’re having gifts shipped, have them delivered to your office, not your home, where they might sit for hours while you’re away.

As for fire and smoke damage, thankfully, that’s usually covered under homeowners or renters policies, which generally will pay for dry-cleaning or replacement. Still, it’s a headache you want to avoid. So make sure your hot Christmas tree lights aren’t near anything flammable, and check to make sure your chimney is open. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many claims we’ve fielded from people who tried to start real fires in their gas-log fireplaces.

And if you’re not sure what your policy covers, give us a call or shoot us an e-mail. We’d be happy to help you review your coverage to make sure you have a worry-free holiday season.

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