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Hosting holiday party may cost you home insurance coverage

December 23rd, 2020  |  Home Insurance

Thinking of having a large holiday gathering during the pandemic regardless of public health restrictions?

You may want to think again.

Having such a Christmas or New Year’s party could have ramifications over and above fines if you’re caught because of pandemic exclusions in your home insurance policy.

Mississauga-based personal injury lawyer Nainesh Kotak, who recently appeared on CTV’s Your Morning, warned about the legal consequences for Canadians who flout public health restrictions.

“You can be sued if somebody comes to your home and catches COVID, and it can be established that … it came from your home, one of your guests, or from yourself,” Kotak told CTV recently.

“The one big issue is going to be whether your home insurance will cover you if such a situation happens. Some insurance policies in Canada have provisions that exclude communicable diseases. In other words, if you catch it and you spread a disease, you’re not going to be covered.”

The issue about personal liability for spreading COVID, and how a home insurance policy might respond, arose this fall in the context of parents wishing to set up “pandemic pods” for educating their children. A pandemic pod involves inviting a small group of children, or even a tutor or teacher — a pod — into the house to learn together. At the time, brokers were reminded they should make their clients aware of any possible policy exclusions related to contagious diseases.

Kotak added the lack of policy coverage may pertain to more than just damages that can be proved. In the context of flouting public health and government orders, for example, home insurance policies might not cover the legal costs to defend the action in the first place, whether the action is successful or not.

Apart from communicable disease exclusions, Kotak warned, homeowners planning to hold large holiday gatherings despite government-ordered lockdowns should also be aware of other exclusions typically found in their insurance policies.

“The other thing to watch for is that there are other exclusions in insurance policies for criminal acts, or intentional acts, or unlawful acts,” he told CTV. “You really have to look at the policy. Because if you allow people into your home, there are certain areas of the country that are in a grey zone, and you simply cannot do it. So, if you do that (invite people over for a celebration), you really run the risk that, if something happens, including the spread of COVID, your insurance company may not cover you…”

Kotak added that this means the homeowner will have to pay out of pocket for any potential costs associated with a lawsuit.

"What that could result in is not only that the (insurance company) will not cover the damages that may be awarded or payable to a potential plaintiff, but even the legal costs of your representation and that could be quite significant," he said.

“Is it worth taking that chance? Probably not.”

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