More on Home Insurance
More on Home Insurance
Updated January 13, 2021
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A standard homeowners insurance policy covers theft of personal belongings inside and outside of your home, so whether your personal possessions are stolen from your house or hotel room, homeowners insurance can help replace the stolen items. If your home is damaged or vandalized during a break-in, your policy can also help you cover any necessary repairs.
However, certain types of theft aren’t covered, such as theft from a home under construction or stolen cars. Additionally, your policy’s personal property coverage may have low limits of liability, or sublimits, on certain expensive valuables if they’re damaged or stolen.
If you’re a victim of theft, homeowners insurance can help cover the cost of new personal belongings and repairs to your home
Homeowners insurance covers theft both on your property and away from your home
Certain expensive valuables, like jewelry and electronics, are only covered up to $1,500
If your home or car are broken into, report the break-in to the police immediately, then file a homeowners insurance claim
Homeowners insurance covers theft of your personal belongings if they’re stolen from inside or outside of your home. The amount you’re reimbursed to replace stolen personal property will depend on the loss settlement provisions in your home insurance policy.
If your personal property is insured at its actual cash value, your reimbursement amount will be calculated based on the depreciated value of the stolen items. If your personal belongings are insured at its replacement cost you’ll be reimbursed the value of new items, regardless of the age or condition of the stolen property. Most standard policies have actual cash value personal property coverage by default, but you can typically upgrade your loss settlement provisions to replacement cost for an additional cost. If you’re not sure how you’re reimbursed for personal property loss, ask your insurance agent or check your policy declarations page.
In addition to burglary on the insured premises, your personal property coverage will generally cover theft in the following circumstances:
The theft occurred away from your home - If you’re on vacation and your luggage is stolen, your insurer can help replace your property. Off-premises coverage is typically capped at 10% of your personal property coverage limit
A guest’s personal property was stolen - If a nonresident’s stuff is stolen from your house, your homeowners insurance may cover them too
A dependent’s dorm room was broken into - If your child is away at college and their dorm room is burglarized, that may be covered by your homeowners insurance as well. However, if they move into off-campus housing, your insurance may no longer protect them
Personal property was stolen from your car - Theft of personal valuables inside your car are also generally covered by homeowners insurance
Structural damage to your home during a break-in is typically covered by the dwelling portion of your policy, up to your coverage limit. That means if your windows or locks are broken during the break-in, your policy can also cover lock replacement and window repairs.
Same goes for additional structures on your property. If a burglar breaks into your detached garage, garden shed, or guest house, your other structures coverage may cover any necessary property repairs up to your coverage limit, which is typically 10% of your dwelling coverage limit.
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Theft is typically covered by homeowners insurance, but there are specific conditions where your insurer may deny your claim. A standard homeowners insurance policy may not cover theft in the following instances:
Unreported theft - If you don’t file a police report after you’re burglarized, or you wait 60 or more days after the theft occurred to submit a claim, you may not be reimbursed for your damaged or stolen property
Theft committed by a named insured - If you’re a named insured and you burglarize someone who lives in the home, or you stage a robbery, your insurer will sniff that out quickly and not only deny your claim, but potentially also find you guilty of fraud
Theft of a residence under construction - If your house is under construction or contains materials used for construction and no one is living there, your home may not be covered against theft
Theft when the named insured is living somewhere else - If you reside somewhere other than the insured house for more than two months, your insurer may deny your claim if the unoccupied home is burglarized. But you may be able to buy vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance
Theft of trailers, campers, or watercraft away from the premises - Your policy won’t cover theft of trailers, campers, or watercraft, including the equipment itself, motors, and any furnishings inside if the equipement wasn’t on your property when it was stolen
Theft from a rented unit on the premises - If a rented area of your property is burglarized, and your tenant isn’t a named insured on the policy, your insurer may deny your claim
Under a standard homeowners insurance policy, you’ll typically be reimbursed the full amount of most items up to your personal property coverage limit, like kitchen equipment, furniture, and clothing.
But burglars typically don’t take the risk of breaking into your home just to steal your rollerblades; they want the expensive stuff. Insurers recognize this and create sublimits that reflect the risk of insuring expensive-to-replace valuables. There are also sublimits on business property and off premises theft.
The chart below lists the most common valuables with special limits you may expect to see in a standard policy.
|Types of property||Limit of liability|
|Jewelry, watches, furs||$1,500|
|Collectible stamps, coins, and medals||Included in above limits|
|Off-premises theft||10% your personal property coverage limit|
For example, if your $8,000 Rolex watch is stolen from your home, your insurance company will only cover $1,500 of the loss, since that’s the maximum limit of liability for watches. If you own expensive jewelry, you’ll want to get personal articles add-on or scheduled personal property endorsement to increase your coverage limits.
In addition to the primary coverages in your policy, there are other theft protections you should consider. Most insurers may let you simply raise your sublimits on certain items or offer a more comprehensive coverage tier with higher limits for expensive stuff. For broader coverage, you may want to look into supplemental coverage, or a scheduled personal property coverage add-on, or endorsement.
You should also be sure you’re insured against virtual theft, such as cyber and identity theft. Most insurers offer some amount of identity fraud protection.
Be sure to talk to your insurer, but you may be able to increase the sublimits on certain valuables. So rather than $1,500 in jewelry coverage, you may be able to increase it to $3,000 for an additional premium. If your insurer offers multiple tiers of homeowners policies, they may just recommend their more comprehensive coverage package altogether.
This endorsement provides higher limits on expensive valuables than your standard policy, and it also broadens your policy to cover lost or misplaced items.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, this endorsement will reimburse you for any expenses you incur while recovering your identity.
Safeguarding your home and personal property against theft is crucial for your safety and well-being. Furthermore, taking additional loss-prevention measures to also helps keep your rates down, as you may be able to save anywhere from 5% to 20% on your premiums if your home has certain safety features.
To keep your home secure and potentially get rewarded with homeowners insurance discounts, consider the following:
A burglar alarm that alerts authorities of a break-in
Motion-sensored lights around your home
24/7 security monitoring around your house
Deadbolts for your doors
Reinforcing your windows with window locks
Reinforced glass windows or window bars
If you come home and it’s apparent that someone broke in, the first thing you should do is call the police. Not only is this for your general safety, but your insurer is going to require a police report before your theft claim is accepted. Once the coast is clear and it’s apparent that everyone is safe, be sure to contact your insurance agent or go to your carrier’s website and begin your claim.
Be sure to give your claims representative as much information as possible during your claim submission. At this point, you’ll hopefully have a detailed inventory of your property, professionally appraised records of any expensive valuables, receipts, any additional proof-of-ownership documentation, and detailed photographs surveying any property damage.
Your carrier will then have you fill out a burglary and theft claim form which will ask for everything from your basic information to the date and time the crime occurred to a detailed description of each item you’re claiming a loss on.
During this time, be sure you’re making any temporary repairs to your home and securing it against further breaking and entering. If your claim is accepted, your insurer will reimburse you for any temporary repairs you made.
To validate your claim and losses, your insurer may send an insurance adjuster to your home, so be prepared to show them any structural or property-related damage that you reported in your claim. If there was something you missed, you may also be able to use this opportunity to have them survey the unreported losses. Be sure to use this opportunity to ask the adjuster how to better protect your home against theft — your adjuster has probably seen multiple break-ins, so they may know a thing or two.
Pat Howard is a homeowners insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. He has written extensively about home insurance cost, coverage, and companies since 2018, and his insights have been featured on Investopedia, Lifehacker, MSN, Zola, HerMoney, and Property Casualty 360.
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