On the last day of the month, pint-sized ghosts, goblins and princesses will arrive at your door with the promise of tricks or treats. It’s all good fun — until an accident or prank goes too far.
Insurers and property experts urge homeowners to prepare for Halloween to minimize the risk of mishaps that end up in insurance claims — or worse, attorney’s fees.
“People should always be worried, especially with this society as litigious as it is now,” says Eric Narcisco, CEO of Effective Coverage. “That’s especially true when dozens of people are coming onto your property.”
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep your guests and property safe on Halloween:
1. Don’t go wild with decorations
No, you needn’t keep your front porch barren. But excessive decoration might not be prudent. Say a child comes to your front door and tumbles off a stoop, perhaps falling into the sole candle-lit pumpkin. Would you be liable for a few bumps and bruises?
“That potentially would not be your liability, even if he fell and injured himself,” says Narcisco.
However, he adds, the child’s parents might claim you are responsible. “The key word is ‘negligence.'”
So, it’s best to be safe. One pumpkin on an otherwise clear porch is likely fine; 75 pumpkins and a fog machine might serve as evidence against you, Narcisco says.
When in doubt, scale back.
2. Do jot down names of witnesses
If someone takes even a minor spill, it’s a good idea to get the names and contact information of any witnesses, Narcisco says. It’s not absolutely necessary to take photos after the incident. However, any videos or photos that were taken during the tumble might be useful if the incident eventually involves your insurer or lawyer.
3. Do necessary repairs
State laws vary, but it’s always a good idea for homeowners to make sure their property doesn’t pose unreasonable risks to visitors. Hazards for which you might be found liable include:
- Crumbling steps
- Loose wooden boards on ramps or porches
- Uneven sidewalks
4. Don’t assume guests will avoid private areas
Young trick-or-treaters bent on having fun might not notice the real dangers that lurk around your home. So, cover up pools and hot tubs. Also, make sure there is adequate lighting around your home.
5. Do make a clean sweep for dangers
The volume of pedestrians gathering around your home on Halloween night can make something as simple as an errant branch an accident waiting to happen. Timothy Devin, senior vice president and New York personal risk practice leader at DeWitt Stern Group, urges you to:
- Trim bushes
- Sweep up wet, slippery leaves
- Keep lights on
“Make sure the path to the candy is illuminated or a light sensor is properly positioned to go on when your trick-or-treaters arrive,” he says. “If you have multiple entrances, make sure the entrance receiving trick-or-treaters is clearly marked.”
6. Do keep pets on lockdown
You might want to show your neighbors how adorable your pet is in costume, but all those trick-or-treaters might cause Fido to get overly excited and inadvertently nip at a child, Devin says. “Consider keeping pets in other rooms or away from reach to prevent a possible injury,” he says.
7. Do keep your car close
Keep your car in a well-lit, easily seen area. Vandals are almost twice as likely to damage cars on Oct. 31 as on an average day, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. And Devin notes the mischief generally starts the night before Halloween.
8. Don’t turn off your lights
Homeowners who don’t want to participate in Halloween often turn off their outdoor lights. That may be a bad idea, says Narcisco, noting it could encourage vandalism or accidents. He suggests posting a friendly note wishing visitors a Happy Halloween and saying the candy supply has dried up.