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'Tis the season to be fully insured against thefts and home damage

Home can be a hazardous place during the festive season, so it is important to have adequate contents insurance.

Christmas Day is the worst day of the year for house fires, and Hogmanay is a favourite with housebreakers, while the entire holiday period is a minefield for accidental damage as alcohol and excitement make people careless.

Aviva says the number of domestic fire claims received for Christmas Day is more than twice the normal daily average, while they rise 50% on New Year's Eve.

Richard Hiscocks, the insurer's head of household claims, warns: "Overworked kitchens, festive candles and plenty of fairy lights all increase the risk of fire."

Meanwhile, the number of burglaries on New Year's Eve is 8% above the norm, as people leave homes and possessions inadequately protected while they celebrate.

Breaks-ins increase over the whole festive period, as dark nights and the promise of houses packed with expensive gifts attract thieves. However, Christmas Day itself sees 80% fewer theft claims than normal, perhaps because so many people - including burglars - stay at home.

Aviva says MacBook Pros, Toshiba laptops and iPhones were the most stolen items last holiday season, and it predicts they will be among the most sought after this time too.

Unsurprisingly, given the amount of alcohol consumed, Hogmanay is one of the worst days for accidental damage in the home, with a 25% rise in claims, thanks to spills on carpets, cigarette burns, damage to mobile phones and cameras, and a range of other breakages.

But it isn't enough to simply take out a policy and forget about it. It is vital to know exactly what is and isn't covered, particularly at this vulnerable time of year.

According to Gocompare.com, nine out of 10 policies offer additional protection over the Christmas period, with some increasing the value of their cover by 10% in recognition of the expensive gifts likely to be arriving.

However, while some add this automatically, others expect policyholders to ask in advance for an uplift, making it important for everyone to check with their insurer.

Even with additional cover, the policy's single item limit will still apply, potentially leaving some gifts unprotected.

Ben Wilson, Gocompare.com's home insurance expert, explains: "A single item limit is the maximum your insurer will pay out for an individual item.

"So, if you're planning on really treating somebody this Christmas, or are lucky enough to receive something particularly expensive, such as jewellery or electrical equipment, you might want to give your insurer a call to make sure it's covered."

The comparison site found that while virtually all contents policies have the option of accidental damage cover, only 15% offer it as standard, making it wise to ask about this too.

It says adding accidental damage to an existing policy can cost as little as 9p a day.

With so much extra food in the house, it can also be worth checking your freezer cover. Gocompare.com says this is a standard part of most, but not all, polices.

However, the amount of cover varies significantly, with two-thirds willing to pay out £1000 or more for ruined food following freezer failure, while a quarter limit payments to between £300 and £999.

To reduce the risk of suffering a festive burglary, if you are going away over the holidays, resist the urge to announce it on social media.

If you are going to be out of the house for long periods, consider installing external security lights and putting internal lights on timers to give the impression it is still occupied.

Lock all doors and windows after dark, taking particular care to secure those at the back of the house, as they are the most common entry points for burglars.

Don't leave spare keys under doormats, in plant pots or anywhere else, and keep car keys out of sight to reduce the chance of burglars making off with that as well.

Arrange for delivery companies to leave parcels with neighbours, rather than on the doorstep, if you are out.

Don't put presents or other valuables where they might be seen through windows by passers-by, and don't leave packaging from expensive items beside bins or anywhere else visible.

Mark precious possessions with a UV pen, to make ­identification easier if they are stolen.

Meanwhile, to reduce the risk of fire, take extra care in the kitchen, particularly if cooking with gas.

Keep decorations well away from naked flames, don't leave candles unattended, don't overload sockets, and remember to switch off all fairy lights before going out or to bed.

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Burglary

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