Does homeowners insurance cover theft?



Homeowners insurance covers both theft and vandalism to your home and personal property, but coverage for certain expensive valuables may be limited.

Pat Howard 1600

Pat Howard

Published December 7, 2018

Homeowners insurance provides coverage for your home, personal property, and personal liability in the event that something bad happens. Your coverage ensures that you’re protected against destructive weather, elemental perils like fire and ice, and human-induced perils like break-ins, theft, and vandalism.

There are three coverages in your policy that insure your home and valuables are protected against theft and vandalism: the coverages that protect the home itself, other structures on your property, and your personal belongings.

However, your policy’s personal property coverage may have special limits of liability, or sublimits, on certain expensive valuables if they’re damaged or stolen, meaning you may not be able to recover the full amount unless you have an endorsement. You should also consider upgrading your standard actual cash value (ACV) contents coverage to replacement cost value (RCV) coverage, which means your insurer will pay to replace your property with a product of similar type and quality.

When homeowners insurance covers theft

As we touched on earlier, there are three parts of your policy that cover theft and vandalism. These coverages, spelled out in your policy as Coverage A (dwelling), Coverage B (other structures), and Coverage C (personal property), will each provide a detailed explanation of covered perils. In a standard Insurance Service Office (ISO) policy, theft is defined as:

Theft, or attempted theft, including disappearance of property from a known place when it is likely that a theft has occurred. Any theft must be promptly reported to the police.

Dwelling coverage (Coverage A)

Damage done to your home because of theft or vandalism may be covered by the dwelling portion of your policy up to your coverage limit. Breaking and entering often means broken widows, broken locks, or maybe a section of your home was completely bulldozed. Whatever the circumstance, your dwelling coverage may reimburse you the cost of securing your home after theft.

However, you policy may stipulate that windows or broken glass are only covered up to a specific amount (typically $50 per window) if the damage was caused by theft or vandalism. Check your policy to see if there are any dwelling sublimits for theft damage; if there are, and you want extra coverage for your Dutch Colonial windows, you may be able to add your windows as a scheduled property endorsement to your policy.

Other structures coverage (Coverage B)

Same goes for other 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.

Personal property coverage (Coverage C)

Personal property coverage may be the most crucial coverage your policy has against theft, as the entire reason someone breaks into your home is because they want your stuff. Under a standard policy, you’ll typically be reimbursed the full amount of normal-priced goods, like kitchen equipment, your PlayStation 4, and your clothing.

However, burglars typically don’t take the risk of breaking into your home just to steal your son’s rollerblades; they want the good stuff, and insurers recognize this and create sublimits that reflect the risk that certain valuables invite. The chart below lists the most common valuables with special limits you may expect to see in a standard policy.

ItemsHO-3 sublimits
FursIncluded in jewelry limit
Collectible stamps, coins, and medalsIncluded in above limits

There are certain stolen property types your insurer will never replace, like your car.

Your personal property coverage will generally cover theft in the following special circumstances as well:

  • The theft occurred away from your home - If you’re on vacation and your luggage is stolen, you may be covered. Off-premises coverage is typically capped at 10% of your personal property coverage limit.
  • A guest’s stuff was stolen from your home - If a nonresident’s stuff is stolen, your homeowners insurance may cover them too.
  • Your kid’s stuff was stolen from their dorm - If your child is away at college and their dorm 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.
  • Theft to your car - Theft to valuables inside your car are also generally covered by homeowners insurance.
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When homeowners insurance doesn’t cover theft

Theft is typically covered by homeowners insurance, but there are specific conditions where your insurer may deny your claim. A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover:

  • 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 real quickly and not only deny your claim but may also find you guilty of fraud.
  • Theft when the residence is 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 of 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.

Additional theft protection to consider

In addition to the primary coverages in your policy, there are a number of 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 property endorsement.

You should also be sure you’re insured against nonphysical theft, like cyber and identity theft. Most insurers now offer identity fraud protection.

Raise your sublimits

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 policies, they may just recommend their more comprehensive coverage package altogether.

Scheduled personal property endorsement

This endorsement provides higher limits on expensive valuables than your standard policy, and it also covers itemized valuables against a greater number of risks, insuring you if they’re misplaced or lost, in addition to theft. Another perk of scheduling your personal property is you don’t have to pay a deductible for the scheduled items.

Identity theft endorsement

If you’re a victim of identity theft, this endorsement will reimburse for any expenses you incur while recouping your identity.

How to protect your home against theft

Safeguarding your home and personal property against theft is crucial for your safety and well-being, as well as your assets. But adding certain levels of theft protection to your home also helps keep your rates down, as you may be able to save anywhere from 5% to 20% if your home is fixed with certain safety features. To keep your home secure and see discounts on your next bill, you should consider the following:

  • Install a burglar alarm that alerts authorities
  • Install motion-sensored lights around your home
  • Install 24/7 security cameras around your house
  • Deadbolt your doors
  • Reinforce your windows with window locks
  • Consider reinforced glass windows or window bars
  • Hire an armed security guard

What to do if you’re a victim of theft

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 a number of break-ins, so they may know a thing or two.

Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is an Insurance Editor at Policygenius in New York City, specializing in homeowners insurance. He has been featured on Property Casualty 360, MSN, and more. Pat has a B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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