Darren Reilly, Commercial Adviser at IOOF Insurance Brokers, cautions that your home and contents insurance might not completely cover you when you are away on holiday. Check your policy now and ensure your assets are protected, he writes.
The festive time of year unfortunately sees an increase in the number of house burglaries. One of the main reasons for the increase is because people tend to go away on holiday. An empty house is much more attractive to a burglar as they can calmly take their time to thoroughly search your house to steal your most valuable items.
Burglars often steal similar types of items, which are generally high value, small and relatively easy to sell to unsuspecting buyers. Top picks for burglars include jewellery, laptop computers, iPads, stereos, mobile speakers, computer games, drones and power tools. These types of property can easily be put in a suitcase, sports bag or even a duvet cover for easy transportation out of your house.
Sadly, an increasingly common occurrence, is for burglars to also steal your car keys – made easier because people often leave spare sets in the handy bowl by the door. A burglar may either come back later to steal your car, give the keys to a fellow thief, or, more annoyingly, use it as their getaway vehicle. Potentially compounding your misery caused by being burgled, it’s quite likely the thieves will burn your car to destroy forensic evidence.
Tips to protect your home and minimise losses
If you have a small safe for jewellery or other small valuables, try to hide the safe somewhere that’s not obvious, like under the stairs or in the spare bedroom. Many people will ‘hide’ their safe in the wardrobe in their main bedroom – burglars know this and will make a beeline straight for it. They don’t bother safe-breaking it at your house, they will just take it with them and calmly break into it later.
Install security lighting on a timer so it looks like you are at home, this is one of the simplest and most effective ways of making burglars think twice before breaking into your house. Timers can also be used to turn on your television, further adding to the illusion of someone being at home.
Hire a gardener to come and mow your lawn when you are away on holiday. Another sensible idea is to ask a neighbour to collect your mail and the local newspapers. A pile of uncollected mail makes it obvious to a burglar that no-one is home, and electric timers won’t be a useful deterrent in such a situation.
If you are going away for an extended holiday, consider renting your house out or ask someone to house-sit. While this will reduce your chances of being burgled, make sure you check that your home and contents insurance is still valid even if you have rented your house to someone else. Many insurance policies will not pay a claim if a window or door is left unlocked, so if that’s the case with your insurer leave your guests some very clear instructions. Check with your insurer how long you are allowed to be absent from your home and still be covered. Some insurers will only allow four weeks, while others provide cover for up to 90 days. Ask your insurer what’s excluded if you don’t advise them you are going away – some insurers won’t cover water damage or burglaries if you are away for an extended time.
Do you know what you own?
One of the trickiest parts of an insurance claim is working out what’s been stolen. To help you avoid this problem, every year, perhaps as you are renewing your insurance cover, take photos of each room, inside jewellery boxes and of any other valuables. Don’t forget to take a photo of your tool collection, as high-quality tools are often in demand from burglars. These photos can then be used as proof of ownership which some insurers now require before they will pay a claim.
Check your limits
Your contents insurance will generally have a limit per item – make sure you know what these limits are and that they’re appropriate. Many home and contents policies also cover items when they are not in the home – sunglasses being a great example. Some insurance definitions can be a bit tricky to understand – for example, some classify camera attachments like lenses and flashes as part of one item and not as separate items. To avoid disappointment later it’s best to find out what these rules and terms are in advance of needing to claim.
Make sure you’re covered for damage and not just theft
Many burglaries also cause damage – from a smashed door or window to slashed artwork. Check that your insurer will cover you for not only repair but also loss of value. A repaired artwork that has suffered malicious damage, like being slashed with a knife, will never retain its value.
No such thing as a standard policy
Doing a few simple things can reduce your chances of being burgled. If you are unlucky enough to be burgled, then having the most appropriate policy for your situation can reduce the negative financial effect on you and your family. There is no such thing as a standard insurance policy, they will always have different limits and rules – so make sure you know exactly what is covered so you don’t get any nasty shocks at claim time.
General Insurance Adviser Darren Reilly started his career with AMP General Insurance working in a number of roles including underwriting. He joined the Wenck Group in 1991, becoming a partner in 1996 and participating in the 2008 merger which formed Shadforth Financial Group, subsequently rebranding the insurance business to IOOF Insurance Brokers. Darren is a Senior Associate of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) and has had strong industry involvement through serving as Chairman of the Australian Burglary Insurance Surveyors Association (QLD) and as Vice President of AFMA in 2004 and 2005. He has been involved in large portfolio transfers with underwriters and negotiating terms of business. He is currently NIBA committee representative. Darren specialises in providing tailored insurance programs to protect assets, mitigate personal and professional liabilities and other personal risks for businesses, farms and corporations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Contact Darren at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect via LinkedIn.
Disclaimer: This is general advice only and does not take into account your financial circumstances, needs and objectives. Before making any decision based on this document you should assess your own circumstances or seek advice from your financial adviser.