Broken light fixtures, dented drywall, syrup-coated appliances—these are classic examples of holiday magic gone wrong. With the season in full swing, more and more homeowners are waking up each morning to a new dose of destruction brought by a well-intentioned but sometimes overzealous houseguest: the Elf on the Shelf.
What began in 2005 as a client reconnaissance operation for Santa Claus—elves sent from the North Pole to monitor children’s behavior for Naughty or Nice List consideration—is now wreaking havoc on an increasing number of households around the globe. Santa employed more than 11 million scout elves as of 2017, and experts say the current elf workforce could easily be double that figure, with independent entrepreneur elves and a new wave of elf babies joining the ranks.
Despite growing unease among parents, ridding a household of its assigned elf is a near impossibility due to the notoriously strong connection forged between shelf elves and the children they observe. With that in mind, experts are urging elves and their hosts to obtain insurance coverage to help protect their assets against potential elf mischief-related losses. Consider the following areas of top concern.
1. Property damage – when magic gets messy
Property damage inflicted by an Elf on the Shelf can lead to significant replacement and repair expenses, emphasizing the need for adequate Homeowners Insurance coverage. Although typically characterized by elves as accidental, incidents of elf misconduct are often defined as acts of vandalism and the associated expenses can be covered under a Homeowners Insurance policy.
Elves are notoriously drawn to shiny objects and prized possessions, so any big-ticket items in the home should be covered by a Personal Articles Floater policy.
Elf mischief often involves play with kitchen utensils and appliances, which can pose serious fire hazards. In fact, in one highly publicized case, an elf caught fire in an oven—though parental forgetfulness was the cause rather than elf mischief. Additionally, water backups and flooding have been reported by parents who found elves tampering with faucets and flushing pillowcases.
Elf-related property concerns affect homeowners, those who have a home under construction, and renters. In American households, 36 percent are renter-occupied. Condominium owners, who could be held liable if their elf damage affects their neighbors, should ask their insurance brokers or agents if they have the appropriate Condominium Unit Coverage.
2. Elven prank-related injuries
The holiday season is a time of frequent gatherings with family and friends, who are tempting targets for an Elf on the Shelf fond of pranks and the riskiest forms of mischief. Some of the most common elven pranks involve spilled hot cocoa, syrup on shoe soles and blanketing hardwood floors with glitter. Falls resulting from such pranks can lead to injuries, especially for older adults, with 3 million older people treated in U.S. emergency departments for fall injuries each year.
Elves who engage in extreme pranking on commercial property should prompt business owners to consult their brokers or agents about investing in Commercial General Liability Insurance and Excess Liability Coverage. Even unsuspecting mail carriers or home contractors could be subject to an injury caused by elf mischief. While coverage for injury-related expenses at home can often be included in a Homeowners Insurance policy.
With Elf on the Shelf-related incidents evolving each year, homeowners would be well served to discuss with their insurance brokers or agents the potential exposures and liabilities that can come with hosting one of these magical creatures. While some elves will never cause a problem, the desire to become the next viral sensation has driven many otherwise conscientious elves to engage in increasingly extreme mischief-making.
More and more elves and homeowners are finding that investing in Personal Umbrella Insurance to cover property damage and liability expenses above and beyond the coverage included in their existing policies is a necessity to fully protect themselves and their assets.
3. Cyber safeguards
One of the most pressing concerns among those who conduct not only personal but professional business using their home Wi-Fi network is how Elf on the Shelf mischief may expose that network to hackers. Elves have unprecedented access to correspondence, banking and credit account information, invoices, medical records and any other data readily available using equipment in hosts’ homes and home offices.
Elves are inordinately fond of sharing photos and videos of themselves on social media and ordering equipment to order trade-specific tools and clothing from online retailers, all activities that leave networks vulnerable to cyber-security risks, especially when the same email address and passwords are being used across multiple sites.
Cyber-security experts advise any individual who lives with an Elf on the Shelf—especially those who work or conduct business from home—to make cyber-security a top priority. An identity theft endorsement on your home policy can help shore up cyber protections and cover costs of recovering from a network breach, including ransom, business interruption, public relations and privacy violations.
In response to the growing complexity of Elf on the Shelf activities, Santa and his North Pole associates have compiled a comprehensive employee handbook outlining clear standards and practices regarding shelf elf behavior and responsibilities.
Given the range of exposures they face as employers of mischief-making elves in various sectors, Claus and company should consult their insurance brokers and agents to evaluate whether they have the appropriate Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) and Directors & Officers Liability Insurance (D&O) policies in place, should Santa make an unlikely yet costly error in judgement or his employees’ mischief-making take a turn toward decidedly less magical realm of legal liability.
This information was provided by Baker Insurance Inc., insurance broker near Pittsburgh, PA. Contact Us to review any of your personal or business policies to ensure you have proper protection, elf-related or otherwise.
Merry Christmas everyone!