Does homeowners insurance cover you when hosting a party?

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House parties may be temporarily on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when restrictions are lifted, family and friends will be eager to get together again. Even when the risks associated with the pandemic end, hosting a party can still mean liability for the homeowner, so it’s a good idea to check and see what protections homeowners insurance offers.

Most home insurance policies feature some protection for private events in the home, but it probably won’t be comprehensive. However, there are additional options to protect the host and venue, including special event insurance and liquor liability or host liquor insurance.

What protections are needed:

Relying solely on a standard home policy may not be enough protection for a private party, and hosts may want to consider specialized insurance for event liability, which can help fill in coverage gaps. It’s a good idea to speak with a licensed insurance professional to learn more about event insurance options, but these are some of the gaps covered by this type of policy:

Protection for misbehaving guests:

Most home insurance policies include some protection for legal liability, which is designed to protect the insured if someone is injured on their property or causes damage, but the coverage may not be sufficient. Special event insurance can provide a higher coverage limit for personal liability, although hosts planning to serve alcohol may want to consider liquor liability or host liquor insurance, as most event insurance does not specifically cover incidents directly related to alcohol served at the party.

Protection for the venue:

Many professional venues carry event insurance to protect the premises and property, and private party hosts might find similar event liability coverage useful. Most home insurance policies provide some protection for the property where the party is being hosted, but it’s a good idea to check into additional event liability to ensure all potential damages are covered.

Event cancellation:

Most special event insurance covers associated costs if an event unexpectedly needs to be canceled. Typically, the type of events covered include birthday and anniversary parties, baby showers and other personal events. Events open to the public or bachelor/bachelorette parties are usually not covered.

Protection for serving alcoholic beverages:

Many parties involve alcohol, but drinking too much often causes people to make poor decisions. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 43 states have social host liability laws. Under these laws, if someone drinks too much at a party and is arrested while driving, the host could be held partly liable. Or a person injured by someone who was drinking at a homeowner’s party might be able to sue the party host for serving alcohol.

Special event insurance typically does not fully cover this kind of liability. It’s a good idea for private party hosts to understand a little about liquor liability or host liquor insurance policies if they plan to serve alcohol:

  • Liquor liability insurance: is an annual or short-term policy for hired professionals who serve alcohol including, bartenders, caterers, chefs and food vendors. Licensed vendors should already carry this type of insurance.
  • Host liquor insurance: is a short-term insurance policy designed to provide extra coverage for the party host. Most host liquor policies offer coverage for bodily injury or property damage related to alcohol, but not many carriers offer it. It’s a good idea to ask a licensed insurance professional what is available.

Potential insurance risks when hosting a party

Many event-related risks can be mitigated before anything happens. Here are a few potential issues to keep in mind when planning an event:

Injuries

Injuries are more common when many guests are packed into a small space and when alcohol is involved.

Underage drinking

Even when alcohol is carefully monitored at a party, underage kids might try to sneak a drink and the host can be held liable.

Drinking and driving

Due to social host liability laws, the host could be held liable for people who drink at the party and then drive.

Property damage

Having multiple people in a private home can lead to property damage, theft and broken personal belongings.

How to prevent any damages when hosting a party:

All it takes is a bit of planning to limit liability and damage risks when hosting a party. Pay attention to the areas where the event will be held, and take note of any potential problems. Here are a few preventative measures to consider:

  • Offer food & non-alcoholic drinks. Eating food helps to offset the effects of alcohol, and offering tasty alcohol-free drinks gives people another option to enjoy.
  • Use a professional bartender. Hiring a professional bartender can help offset the personal liability involved with serving drinks at a party. Professional event bartenders typically carry liability insurance.
  • Serve alcohol from a single source. Even if a professional bartender is not used, alcohol flow can be more easily monitored if it’s only available in one place during an event.
  • Encourage ridesharing and designated drivers. If a guest has been drinking, guide them away from driving. Instead, it’s a good idea to offer ridesharing services or have a designated driver ready to go. Consider collecting car keys as guests arrive so that it’s easier to ensure everyone’s safety at the end of the party.
  • Stop serving alcohol at a certain time. Once it gets late, substitute coffee for alcohol to help prevent intoxicated driving.
  • Offer a place to stay. If it’s obvious that a guest shouldn’t drive when the party ends, offer them a spare room or couch. Reserving a few spots in the house for those who’ve imbibed heavily could be the safest approach. Air beds are also an easy and inexpensive solution.
  • Act as a responsible host. Party guests typically follow the host’s lead, so act responsibly and don’t drink too much. It will also be easier to respond to emergencies or issues with a clear head.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best home insurance company?

A homeowner’s insurance needs can change quite a bit depending on location, home value, home size, personal possessions and more. Because home insurance needs vary from person to person, it’s a good idea to shop around to get quotes from a few different providers and compare rates to see which one is best.

Does home insurance include personal liability protection?

Personal liability is a common coverage included in home insurance policies offered by many providers. Before buying special liability insurance for an event, check to see whether your current home insurance policy will cover your needs for the party.

Where can I find more information on event insurance policies?

The first place to find more information about event insurance is your current home insurer or a licensed insurance professional. Many providers, such as Allstate and Nationwide, offer event insurance, or their standard home policy might provide adequate coverage for an event. Remember that serving alcohol may require additional coverage, such as host liquor insurance.