We have covered the concept of social host liability during the holiday season. Within the detailed guide we asked the following of homeowners who plan on hosting shindigs throughout December:
- Have your home inspected and repaired prior to hosting
- Create safe indoor and outdoor spaces for guests
- Be responsible when serving alcohol to guests
- Drink responsibly too (you)
- Update your homeowners insurance policy before hosting
Please do review the standard social host liability guidebook for further details on each of the essential steps above. They remain as true today as they ever have been. However, an addendum needs to be made to account for 2021. The world is a different place at the moment, and serving as a host to guests from outside of your household comes with some new considerations. Please reference the following prior to setting dates and sending out invitations.
3 Additional Tips to Reducing Liability Risk When Hosting a Party at Your Home for the 2021 Holiday Season
Follow Provincial and Regional Restrictions to the Tee
A typical Holiday party at your home is considered a personal gathering. While there may not currently be any capacity restrictions on indoor or outdoor personal gatherings in your region, please recognize that the situation can change at a moment’s notice. As a host at your home, you now bear the responsibility of monitoring BC Health mandates and public health orders. You cannot plead ignorance of these in claims court, neither against governing bodies who may fine violators, and possibly not against guests who may have fallen ill as a direct result of attending your gathering (more on this below). It’s important to note that unlike last year, restrictions are now regional and not just provincial. While there may be no restrictions regarding personal gatherings in Vancouver, there may be in BC’s Northern Health region, or Fraser East (etc.). Monitor BC’s Provincial and Regional Restrictions resource on the days leading up to your Holiday party, and check again on the morning of the affair.
The Question Around Vaccination
Touchy subject time. BC restaurants are catching flack (from some) for requesting government mandated proof of vaccination, so imagine the possible blowback from friends and coworkers if you asked for the same? For this reason you may not request it. But does neglecting to do so put you at liability risk? It’s possible. Given that nearly 90% of eligible adults in B.C. have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, concerned guests may assume that everyone at your party is vaccinated. However, what if school-aged kids will be in attendance? Or those who are not comfortable with being vaccinated at this time? If one guest can prove that they got ill by attending your party, from an unvaccinated guest, and they feel as if you were not forthright about not asking or requiring attendees to be vaccinated, they could potentially have a case against you. It’s certainly a very grey area, but given the implications it’s a tough position to be in as a host.
It’s also very important to note, that you should not expect your insurance policy to cover you if you get sued for COVID-19 exposure, as communicable diseases are not covered under homeowners insurance. We know it sounds crazy (although does anything sound normal anymore?) but if you really want to mitigate liability risk for this specific concern, you may consider asking guests to sign a waiver.
Creating a Sanitary Environment Too
We have already referenced the necessity to create a safe environment in and outside of the home. That has always been the key to avoiding host liability risk. But “safe” has taken on a new meaning for 2021. In addition to providing guests with sanitizer and encouraging them to wear masks if vulnerable, ask them to be diligent when it comes to where they place their dining and drinkware. If a glass or plate is left unattended, pick it up and place it in the dishwasher so that no one inadvertently picks up and consumes food or drink from another’s cup, glass, or plate. Disposable (yet recyclable) utensils are a good option at this time. In addition, keep a window open if outside temperatures allow, and change the filters in your HVAC system prior to the arrival of guests. Consider adding a fire pit and heaters on your deck (check local bylaws) to invite guests to enjoy the gathering outdoors as well, which will reduce congestion inside of your home. The more the crowd spreads out, the better for all.