Surprising and disastrous insurance claims to avoid this holiday season

Close up of car driving in the winter, snowy

By: Paul Gilbody, SVP of Specialty and Property Claims at Aviva Canada 

No matter if it’s 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve or first thing in the morning on a normal Tuesday, our claims team is available 24/7 to help our customers navigate your insurance claim. But we know that making an insurance claim is probably the last thing anyone wants to do during this festive time.

Here are some tips to help you avoid some surprising and disastrous insurance claims, so you won’t have to call us or your insurance broker this holiday season. If you do need to reach out to us, we’re ready and happy to help get the claims process started. But we hope you won’t need to.

Christmas tree fires

Christmas trees can be surprisingly dangerous. Living rooms, presents and sometimes entire homes can catch on fire because of Christmas trees. They’re often close to live flames (like candles or fireplaces) or overloaded with electrical cords and lights, so there’s a very real risk that your Christmas tree could ignite. Naturally, because they’re made of wood and have air pockets between the boughs, Christmas trees are very flammable – especially when they’re dry.

Trees that have been continuously watered are typically less flammable and if they do catch fire, the flames typically spread slower. Some people may do a great job at watering their trees before the holidays to keep them looking nice and fresh – and may stop once the main holiday days are over. But it’s essential to water your Christmas tree every single day that it’s in your home.

Not only should you water it daily, but you should also:

  • Inspect lights and decorations for frayed or loose wires
  • Ensure your pet does not chew/damage lights or cords
  • Unplug the tree at night
  • Remove the tree from your house as soon as the main holiday days are over and place it well away from your home

Frozen and burst pipes

Frozen pipes are a common winter insurance claim. If a house gets too chilly, water in the pipes will freeze and expand. This can cause the pipes to burst, leading to serious water damage.

If the temperature is dropping, here’s how you can prevent frozen pipes:

  • Keep your thermostat on – particularly overnight and in extreme cold. Many turn the heat down at night but in these circumstances, it’s best to keep it on until the cold snap has passed. 
  • Create a gentle drip from at least one of your faucets. This encourages the water to flow so it won’t freeze in your pipes.
    • To prevent this water from going to waste, put a bucket under the drip and reuse this water to water your tree or other household plants
  • If you’re leaving your home vacant, plan to keep your heat on while you’re away and consider asking a trusted neighbour or friend to check on it to make sure everything is fine. If you’ll be gone for an extended time and your area typically sees freezing temperatures, consider shutting off your water and draining all your pipes before you go.

Home break-ins and gift thefts

The holiday season is a prime time for thieves to steal possessions and presents from homes. While stolen items may be covered by your home insurance, you definitely don’t want to have all your perfectly curated presents stolen at the last minute.

Here are some tips to keep your gifts safe:

  • Try to be discrete with large gifts. Some thieves may pay attention to the empty boxes you leave near your recycling bin, particularly if they show an expensive item (such as a TV or computer). Try to cut down these boxes so they fit inside your recycling bin or keep them inside and then only put them out on the morning your recycling will be collected
  • Hide large wrapped or unwrapped gifts away from windows and doors so they can’t be viewed from the street
  • If you’re out of your house even for a few hours (or travelling for a longer period), make sure to turn on your alarm system if you have one and keep a few lights on. Consider using a timer or even smart lights, as they are often more climate-friendly and can make it more believable that someone is home

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice. Aviva and the Aviva logo are trademarks of Aviva plc. and are used under license by Aviva Canada Inc. and its subsidiary companies.