Law Talk: Halloween – Your Legal Duty of Reasonable Care

Halloween is always a great time of year – costumes, hayrides, haunted houses, and candy!  However, homeowners should be mindful of the responsibility they owe visitors to their property.

Later this evening, many of you will have a variety of ghosts, princesses, vampires, and angry birds trick-or-treating at your doorstep.  Halloween night poses a great many risks for homeowners because you are essentially opening your home to the public for a unique once-a-year open house event.  As you may or may not know, you owe what lawyers call a ‘duty of reasonable care’ to each of those children that come onto your property.  This leaves you vulnerable to potential liability.

Here are some commonsense tips that you can follow to better protect the trick-or-treaters on your property this year:

  1. Keep Your Property Well-Lit – Be mindful that trick-or-treaters will be cutting through all parts of your property to find your front door, so try to make sure that your front porch is adequately lit for them to easily find their destination.  By keeping the path to your home and front step well-lit, you can prevent potential slip-and-falls by trick-or-treaters wondering into other parts of your yard.  Also, those who are up to no good on Halloween are typically less likely to bother well-lit property.
  2. Keep Property Unobstructed – In addition to keeping your property well-lit, it is always a good idea to keep your property unobstructed while trick-or-treaters seek the most efficient pathways between houses handing out candy.  This includes such ideas as picking up yard debris, filling gopher holes, winding up hoses, and picking up toys left in the yard.
  3. Restrain Pets – Another overlooked Halloween safety tip is to be sure to keep your pets away from the front porch, where they might get excited and jump on or bite trick-or-treaters.
  4. Pumpkin Safety – The traditional Jack-O-Lantern presents many potential hazards.  For example, it is often very easy for a guest or child to kick the pumpkin and candle over if they’re not looking where they’re going.  This type of accident could cause a slip-and-fall or present a fire hazard.  One way that you could protect the trick-or-treaters, your family, and your home is to consider purchasing a battery-powered light for your pumpkin instead of a traditional candle.
  5. Use Your Home Security System – Halloween presents a prime opportunity for vandals and burglars to damage your property.  Thus, it is recommended that you make sure that you have a reliable home security system that can deter others from causing harm to your home.
  6. Check Homeowners Insurance – Lastly, it would not hurt to contact your home insurance agent to request additional homeowners coverage on the one night a year where a variety of people will be visiting your property.

While Halloween is a fun holiday, homeowners should make sure to eliminate any potential risks for a child injury.  Be sure to protect all your visitors by keeping your property clean and safe.

Most of all, have a fun and safe Halloween!

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