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Some play items, pets may be insurance risks

Backyard play items like trampolines can be risky when it comes to getting house insurance.

Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP

Backyard play items like trampolines can be risky when it comes to getting house insurance.

Trampolines, swimming pools, treehouse kits, and certain breeds of puppies are holiday gifts that make children bubble over with glee, but they cause homeowner’s insurance agents to cringe.

It is easy to forget during the holiday excitement, but many backyard or playroom items can give you insurance headaches. It comes down to how the risks inside and outside your property compare with injury statistics.

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“It’s not your kids that the insurance companies are worried about,” says Richard Lundin, an insurance agent in Park Ridge, Ill. “It’s the guests, those neighborhood kids. The liability from visiting children who might get hurt.”

Because every homeowner’s situation is different and every state has its own insurance regulations, Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute in New York, would not speculate about how much someone’s rates might go up after Santa brings the kids a trampoline.

However, Lundin said he has seen rates climb after homeowners have bought items like trampolines and in-ground pools, and people have lost their policies for not revealing the purchases to their agent.

Whatever the chosen plaything, Nationwide agent Renae Dusenbury-Waldman of Tryon, N.C., said her customers will not see their rates rise, and their insurer will not drop them, if they follow strict safety guidelines.

In 2010, the most recent year statistics are available, there were 92,159 hospital emergency room-treated injuries associated with trampolines, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Donna Milligan, an insurance agent in Wooster, Ohio, also stresses safety precautions for pools, and says the biggest no-no’s are diving boards and slides, which are both prone to causing injuries.

If you build something like a treehouse, you should know the risk if you do not tell your agent. “If you knowingly don’t say anything, you’re defrauding your insurance company,” says Worters.

You could lose your insurance when it comes time for renewal if a home adjustor comes onto your property and sees the hideaway in your tree. An you may have trouble getting another policy. This can be troubling if your beloved holiday gift was, say, a Rottweiler puppy.

In 2011, more than one-third of homeowner’s insurance liability claims were due to dog bites, costing almost $479 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute. And when it comes to such injuries, pit bulls and Rottweilers lead the pack, insurance specialists said.

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