It isn’t only candles that burn over the Christmas season. Approximately 1000 Swiss homes also catch fire over the holidays every year.
A devastating fire can strip you of your home and valued possessions in a matter of hours. Damages can easily reach hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of Swiss francs. In the worst case, a fire can claim somebody’s life or leave its victims suffering from smoke poisoning and burns.
Exceptional care required over the holidays
Following a few simple guidelines can help you enjoy the season while staying well out of harm’s way. If you enjoy lighting up your Christmas tree with genuine candles, as per true Swiss tradition, make sure that your tree is not too dry, and that the tree-stand is stable. Make sure that no flammable objects (wrapping paper, plastic tinsel) are anywhere near the candles, and be careful not to use more candles than necessary.
Most importantly, never allow candles to burn unattended. Be especially careful if children or pets are in the house.
Consider household insurance
No matter how careful you are, there is no sure protection against fire. While an insurance policy will not bring back your sentimental treasures, it can help you recover from the financial loss of a fire.
In Switzerland, you can insure your possessions against damage by fire (and fire extinguishers) by taking out a household insurance policy. Choosing the correct amount of coverage is important to properly insuring your possessions. If you are underinsured, you will receive lower benefits.
Personal liability insurance and buildings insurance
If the house itself – meaning the actual structure – is damaged, these damages will be covered by buildings insurance. Buildings insurance is taken out by the owner of a property, and is compulsory in most cantons.
If a fire causes damage to a neighboring property, damages will only be covered by personal liability insurance, and not by household or buildings insurance.
Damage caused by gross neglect is not covered
Important: Damages to a household will not be covered, or will only be partially covered, if they result from gross neglect. Many Swiss insurers will radically reduce your benefits if an incident is caused by gross neglect. Damages resulting from minor neglect are still covered.
Neglect qualifies as gross neglect when basic safety principles are not observed. However, in practice it can be difficult to prove whether or not an incident resulted from gross neglect or simply from minor neglect. This will often be decided in court.
If, for example, you allow candles to burn unattended and a fire results, your insurance benefits may be reduced. Because of this, it is crucial that you take the utmost care over the holiday season in order to stay properly insured.
The moneyland.ch team