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I had multiple holiday decorations destroyed by wind, including a few inflatable characters that cost a couple hundred dollars. Does insurance cover this, or is it my own fault for leaving them out?

For people who love to go all out during the holidays, decorations can run into the thousands of dollars. Fortunately, outdoor decorations are covered under home insurance or renters insurance, up to the personal property limit listed on the declarations page. And no, it wasn't your fault--the decorations are meant to be displayed outside.

But whether you should file a claim is an open question. Insurance agents say to be careful about submitting minor claims for broken or stolen yard ornaments. Before you file a claim ask yourself: Is the reimbursement worth a possible increase in your home insurance rates? A single claim isn't likely to raise your rates, but you could end up paying more if filing the claim removes a clean claims history discount, or this one claim adds to a number of claims you've filed recently.

Multiple claims can lead to higher insurance rates, either through your current company or a new company if you decide to shop around for home insurance quotes. Other insurance companies can access your claims history through databases shared by insurers.

The other factors to consider, aside from the potential risk of higher premiums, is the amount of your home insurance deductible and the size of your loss. Most home and renters insurance deductibles range from $250 to $1,000. If the damage totaled $1,200, and your deductible is $1,000, then it's probably better to eat the cost. However, if you lost $5,000 in decorations and wanted to replace them, then filing a claim would make sense.

On another note, make sure you follow manufacturer's directions carefully when putting up holiday decorations. Otherwise, decorations can be a fire hazard, which could lead to far more heartache than the loss of a few inflatable characters.

For more, see holiday lawn decoration disaster? Check your home insurance.

Last updated: Jan. 25, 2011