Fires and other major perils can leave business properties unoccupied and sometimes poorly secured. Unfortunately, these conditions can open the property to a greater risk for vandalism.
If your business has been vandalized, you are most likely covered for damages under your commercial insurance policy. However, Attorney Bill Voss knows this may not seem like helpful information when you are trying to get your business back to normal as quickly as you can.
Vandalism, the deliberate act of damaging or destroying others’ private property, is often seen as less damaging than burglary, the act of breaking into a private property with the intent of stealing. However, vandalism can be extremely damaging and expensive for owners of commercial property. In the event that your commercial property is damaged by vandals, it is vital that you file an insurance claim and work toward getting repairs completed quickly.
Examples of Vandalism on Business Properties
Vandalism can be much more than a little graffiti. It can ruin entire buildings and stop your business from welcoming customers for hours, days, or weeks. Some common examples of vandalism include:
- Breaking windows
- Spray-painting walls and other graffiti
- Intentional flooding
- Defacing property
- Ruining landscaping
- Damaging merchandise
- Destroying signs
- Breaking fencing or walls
- Destroying air conditioners or other appliances
Preventing Burglary and Vandalism on Commercial Properties
Burglary and vandalism are very expensive problems for commercial property owners. Getting money for repairs from the insurance company can be stressful and complicated, especially when a property has already been damaged by a fire. Preventing vandalism and avoiding the need for additional insurance claims can help save time, money, and worry. Here are five steps that you can take to protect your property:
- Invest in good lighting. Vandalism most often happens in night and under the cover of darkness. If your business property and surrounding parking area is well lit, it will not attract vandals, especially the type of vandals that are simply looking for easy targets. Keep the area lit even if it closed while awaiting repairs.
- Invest in great security. Is vandalism a big enough problem in your area that it would be cost-effective to have security at night or temporarily while the property is unoccupied? Look at the damage done by vandalism on your property in recent years as well as how much you have spent on insurance. Now look at how much extra security would cost. Does the math work?
- Make smart design and landscape choices. Just as lighting can help stop vandalism, using certain material choices and smart landscape design can also keep lawbreakers and mischief-makers away. For example, using thick, thorny bushes on the borders of your buildings can deter taggers.
- Clean up vandalism as soon as possible. Unfortunately, vandalism follows vandalism. Your buildings are less likely to be damaged if they are kept up and do not already have signs of property damage from vandals. This applies even to properties that have been damaged by other causes, even if repairs or repainting are already scheduled for the future.
- Get active in your community. What is at the root of vandalism? Usually, it is a combination of boredom, anger, and defiance in the community’s youth. Go straight to the source of vandalism by getting active and being visible in your community: support youth recreation, help local schools, adopt a nearby park or road, and donate your time and money.
Sadly, not all vandals can be stopped, even if you take all of the precautions listed above. If your commercial property has been damaged by vandalism, it should at least be a relief to know that the costs of repair may be covered by your property insurance policy.
Insurance Claims for Vandalism on Commercial Properties
If you discover vandalism on your commercial property, act quickly if you want the best chances of recovering the right amount on your insurance claim. Call the police immediately, and make sure a police report is filed. Next, document the vandalism in every way possible, including taking pictures and taking a detailed inventory of damaged items. If your business is not able to function properly after the vandalism takes place, be sure to keep track of your business interruption losses as well.
Although time is of the essence to get your business up and running, do not make the mistake of tampering with evidence or minimizing your damage. It is important to call the police to report the crime and to take a moment and videotape or photograph the damage that was done to your business by the vandals. Those two things will be critical in your commercial insurance claim, as the insurance company will want to see the police report and the damage.
The third essential thing you need to do after your business has been vandalized is to call an experienced insurance claim attorney who can work on your behalf in negotiating your commercial vandalism claim with the insurance company. An experienced lawyer will know what your claim is worth and will fight for you so that you can return to running your business. Insurance companies are known for trying to offer lower settlements that what your claim is worth. Call the Voss Law Firm for help with a difficult or denied claim, or download a free copy of our book, Commercial Insurance Claims: The Basics.