If you’ve suffered a break-in or intentional damage to your home, you know that the effects of these crimes can be deeply unsettling. Your sense of security will take a while to replace, but fortunately, you have insurance to cover the items you lost. But what if your insurance provider is fighting against the claim? Attorney Bill Voss explains reasons for theft and vandalism claim denials and how to get your homeowners' insurance to cover property damage.
Differences Between Theft, Burglary, and Vandalism
Burglary, theft, and vandalism are all property crimes that can overlap and have similar effects, but it’s essential to understand how they differ. The purpose behind the damage may seem irrelevant to you, but it plays a significant role in whether an insurer will cover the damages under your homeowners’ policy.
What is Theft?
Theft is an action that deprives property owners of their money or possessions without their knowledge. Homeowners can file claims for theft after tools are stolen from a barn or shed, copper pipes are ripped from the walls, or valuable personal property goes missing.
What is Vandalism?
Vandalism is intentionally defacing or destroying another person’s property for no purpose other than destruction. Acts of vandalism include spray-painting walls, breaking windows, demolishing fences or lawn ornaments, or cutting down trees.
What is Burglary?
Burglary is entering someone else’s property without permission, such as breaking into a home, reaching through an open window, or using a hidden key or numerical code to unlock a door.
Why Theft, Burglary, and Vandalism Claims Cause Problems for Homeowners
It’s easy to see how one incident can result in several causes of damage. If someone pushes through a basement window, steals copper pipes, and smashes stored holiday decorations before leaving, they’ve committed burglary, theft, and vandalism. Insurers that provide coverage for one—but not all—of these offenses are likely to fight claims based on exclusions.
For example, you might return home after vacation to find that your home was broken into and thieves stole valuable electronics and defaced your walls with spray paint. You file a claim with your insurer but are told that you have theft insurance but no vandalism coverage. Your policy will cover the cost of replacing a forced door and stolen computers, TVs, and valuables but not the spray painting and slashed furniture that wasn’t actively caused by theft.
How Can I Get My Homeowners’ Insurer to Pay for the Damage?
Due to the high potential for fraud, your insurer will want overwhelming proof of loss in these claims. The following steps could increase your chances of getting your claim paid with minimal resistance:
- File a police report. If you have not already called the police to the scene, get them to your home to investigate the damage and make a full report. Even if the police can’t locate the criminal, filling out a police report shows that you’re taking all the necessary steps to get your property returned. Keep a copy of the police report and send one to your insurer.
- Take pictures. Take a series of photos of the damage and provide photographs of the same areas before the incident occurred. You can also include stills or footage captured by your security cameras to prove your diligence in preventing damage.
- Provide a detailed inventory. Your claim is more likely to be taken seriously if you have receipts and photos of stolen valuables. If you haven’t already made a list of electronics, heirlooms, jewelry, and other valuable property, start making your catalog now.
- Contact an attorney. Insurers may deny theft claims if they don’t have sufficient evidence that a stranger caused the damage, believe that the claimant inflated the value of stolen articles, or the homeowner didn’t take proper steps to prevent the incident.
If your insurance provider refuses to pay for damages, our experienced property damage attorneys can help you get the compensation you need for your losses. Call the Voss Law Firm at 888-614-7730 today to get answers to your questions, or start reading your copy of our free book, Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse, and Refuse.