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Turning Your Spring Cleaning into a Yard Sale?

John Rowley - Wednesday, March 02, 2016

A yard sale is a great way to clean out your home, make a little money and do some good for the environment by providing a second life for your possessions. But your enterprise could get expensive if someone gets hurt on your property and decides to sue.  

Both homeowners and renters insurance provide liability protection that covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or your family members cause to other people. This coverage pays for both the cost of defending you in court and court awards—up to the limit of your policy. Most standard home and renters insurance policies will generally provide at least $100,000 of liability coverage.

Many people do not realize they have no-fault medical coverage as part of the liability protection in their standard homeowners or renters policy. This allows someone who gets injured on your property to simply submit his or her medical bills to your insurance company. Thus, medical bills can be paid without resorting to a lawsuit. Most policies include about $1,000 to $5,000 worth of this coverage. It does not, however, pay the medical bills for your own family or pet.

Consumers wishing to obtain additional liability coverage can increase the amount of liability insurance on their home or apartment to $300,000 or $500,000. Those who need even more liability coverage in order to protect their assets can also consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy. These policies cost about $200 to $350 for each $1 million of additional liability protection and there is a requirement that a certain amount of underlying coverage already be in place—generally about $300,000. Umbrella policies also provide broader coverage for claims involving libel and slander.

Depending on the type of yard sale you are planning, the I.I.I. offers the following guidelines:

One Time Event: Yard sales that are one-time events for the sole purpose of selling unwanted personal items are generally covered under a standard homeowners or renters policy. However, it is important to have enough coverage, so be sure to check with your insurance agent or company representative.

Frequent Yard Sales: If you have frequent yard sales, it is a good idea to purchase a separate policy for business liability or an in-home business policy. These policies are available from many homeowners insurance companies and specialty insurers that sell stand-alone in-home business policies.

Charity Fund Raiser: If you are staging a sale to raise money for a charity, you will most likely be covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. But you can also contact the charity to see what type of insurance protection they would be willing to extend to you if necessary. 

In addition to checking your insurance coverage, plan your sale with safety in mind:
  1. Repair loose railings and cracked concrete which may cause injuries.
  2. Place sale items so that there is enough space to move about without tripping.
  3. Avoid placing items too close to stairs and ledges where people could fall.
  4. Keep sharp objects such as knives and scissors out of the reach of children.
  5. Do not sell items that you know are unsafe or hazardous, including recalled items.
  6. Keep your pets safely indoors during the sale, both for their safety and to avoid someone getting hurt. Some dog breeds can become very protective when there are several strangers on their property.
  7. If someone does get injured, make sure that you get them medical attention as soon as possible.
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