“Spring” cleaning, at any time of year, presents the opportunity to remove clutter and take an inventory of your possessions, it’s also a good time to take stock of the risks to the health and safety of your home, occupants, and potential visitors. Today, Park Insurance is here to shed light on some of the everyday threats to the sanctity of your home, and liability.
4 Common Liability Risks Found in the Home that You Can Act on Today
There are fire hazards present in your home at this very moment. These hazards put you, your household, neighbors, and nearby residents at risk. They include exposed electrical outlets, unclean stove surfaces, heaters placed near combustibles, overnight charging of mobile devices, and of course more obvious considerations such as forgotten burning candles and the like. View our complete guide on how to prevent household fires.
We haven’t been shy in discussing water damage here on our blog. That’s because it presents one of the biggest homeowners insurance liability risks and is in fact the leading cause of claims in Canada. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to significantly reduce this risk. On the inside, regularly inspect your water tanks, appliances, sinks, pipes, faucets, bathtubs and toilets for damage and attend to repair/replacement as needed. Those of you who have installed motion-censored faucets should also take note, your pet may set off a sequence of events that will have you drowning in water damage debt. On the outside, keep gutters/downspouts and roofing debris free and in working order, while weatherproofing the entire exterior. View our infographic on water damage for a complete accounting of how to minimize this common risk.
3. Slips, Trips, and Falls
A Health Canada study shows that falls are the leading cause of injury in Canadians. Nearly 63 percent of seniors, 50 percent of adolescents, and 35 percent of adults are injured in falls. While falls occur at work, school, and in a wide variety of public settings, the home (and property) is more often than not ground zero.
When it comes to liability, many people think of slip and falls as being a concern exclusive to businesses and organizations with customers/clients, and staff under their employ. However, while less common, homeowners are at risk when a slip, trip, or fall occurs on their property and in the home. As a general rule, a visitor can claim damages for such an event if they have been injured as a result of a failure by the owner or occupier (you) to provide a reasonably safe premises. And if you are a contractor who runs a business out of your home, your liability concerns grow exponentially. No matter how far fetched the risk may seem from an insurance liability perspective, you should do all that you can to reduce the potential. Plus, it just makes good sense from a general health and safety point of view.
How can you reduce this risk? Consider the following:
- Stabilize Stairs – Make sure that you inspect for damaged or poorly constructed banisters, rails, and steps (inside and outside of the home) and attend to necessary repairs and retrofits.
- Keep Stairs and Pathways Clear – Interior and exterior staircases should be kept clear of clutter at all times. Also, remember that exterior stair (and pathway) maintenance is not just a winter activity. There may be no ice and snow to contend with in the spring or summer, but there is debris, mud, moss, and mildew that must be kept away. These same concerns can be tracked indoors and on to the steps leading upstairs and into the basement, which can certainly cause someone to slip and fall.
- Rugs – If you have hallway, area, and/or bathroom rugs, they present another risk. Make sure that they are secured to the floor and never allowed to bunch up.
- Cables and Cords – Not everyone lives in a completely wireless home. Your home office or entertainment systems may have all sorts of cords running to and from outlets. If not fastened to the walls or baseboards, they can cause someone to trip.
- General Clutter – You should keep the floors clear of clutter at all times, but especially when you’re expecting visitors. Toys are an obvious culprit, but anything that belongs on a shelf or in a cabinet/closet (and not on the floor) should be placed accordingly.
- Poorly Placed Furniture and Decor – Don’t get too playful with your furniture arrangement. Make sure that visitors have a clear path from the point of entry and can navigate about your home with relative ease, without having to step carefully around a floor vase, plant, or tripod lamp.
4. Open WiFi Access
Didn’t see this one coming? That’s what cybercriminals lurking in residential communities are betting on. You may be cautious about logging into sensitive accounts when sitting at Starbucks, but you may be more lax when it comes your personal wifi at home. The truth is, you or anyone who is using your wifi runs the risk of having their data stolen from hackers positioned within range outside (or next door to) your home. Once again, we see how liability risk can increase exponentially should you work remotely and/or on contract while accessing sensitive client data. Your home’s wifi needs a lock the same way as your front and backdoor does.
Here are some “best practices” that you can apply to reduce this risk:
- Change your router password user admin and password every 90 days.
- Change your network name / service set identifier (SSID), especially if you live in a condo where a common suite to suite sequence is evident. In addition, disable the SSID broadcast in your router settings to make sure creepers can’t uncover your network.
- Turn “on” your wifi encryption.
- Activate the firewall on your router (if not automatic).
In closing, make sure that you’ve updated your homeowners insurance policy. One of the biggest threats comes from a lack of knowledge about what you are and are not covered for with respect to your current insurance. Contact Park Insurance for a comprehensive accounting of your homeowners (and related) insurance policy today.