When most of us think of home, business, or auto insurance, we think of coverage for things like faulty wiring, or severe winds destroying all or part of a building. Or perhaps we think of a fender bender that we have that puts a dent, or causes worse damage in a vehicle. There are other things that we need to insure against, and often these other things are more frustrating than natural occurrences, and they are more frustrating than accidents: sometimes we need protection against people who deface or destroy property for no logical reason—vandals.
Vandalism isn’t just kids throwing a few eggs at a house or car. It isn’t just people smashing the Halloween jack-o-lantern on the sidewalk. Vandalism is the intentional and malicious destruction of or damage to the property of another person.
Someone who finds their tires were slashed after a movie is the victim of vandalism. Someone who has a rock thrown through their house window is a victim of vandalism. So what can a vehicle, business owner, or home owner do if vandals strike?
Recently, it was estimated that vandalism cost United States citizens over $25 billion a year in damages. Fortunately, nearly every homeowner’s policy or business policy covers vandalism without needing special riders or special requests, although it is wise to ask to ensure just what is covered. In most cases, a homeowner’s policy will cover all damages from vandals, minus the deductible.
Prior to Filing Vandalism Claims
- It is all right to make the damage less intrusive to the family home or business, but you should not repair the damage. If it is raining outside, it is all right to cover a broken window so the rain won’t cause more damage, but until an adjuster has come to inspect the damage, the window should not be repaired
- Vandalism is against the law, and it is important, for insurance reasons, to file a report with the police department. If an insurance company later balks at fulfilling their responsibilities, a police report can often be important by providing documentation to make them do the right thing. The police report will also have a detailed and accurate record of what was damaged so the insurance company will be less likely to claim that some damage was already on the house prior to the vandalism.
- Make a thorough record of purchases and upgrades you have performed. This includes pictures if that is possible. A homeowner does not want to be in a pitched battle about the value of an item with their insurance company. Documentation can prevent those issues.
- After the contacting the police and locating your documentation, call your insurance company. Once you know what the damage is and have the police there to provide documentation, call your insurance company.
When Insurance Does Not Pay for Vandalism Damage
Sometimes, if a house is vacant for any extended period of time, an insurance policy will not cover vandalism. Perhaps homeowners were fortunate enough to take and extended vacation of longer than 30 days. Perhaps an insured must travel to another city for an extended project. Perhaps people are planning on flipping a house, not living in it at all.
Additional reasons insurance companies may be reluctant to pay out on an insurance policy is if the person who damaged a business was seeking to steal rather than seeking to vandalize. Many business policies do not cover theft, but they do cover vandalism. An insurance company may decide that thieves broke into a home or building to steal something, not to vandalize it—and they may claim the vandalism was just part of the theft.
In some situations, people will break into a building and spray paint on walls or conduct other acts of mischief, many of which are quite costly and quite destructive. Perhaps the people who broke in also stole $500 and several computers. How will that be classified? Was this a situation in which vandals broke in and became thieves or perhaps it is a case of stealing that turned into vandalism?
If an insurance company decides against you, the policy holder, it is important to have legal representation that knows how to fight these cases on your side. Vandalism is never a good thing, and when it feels like your insurance company is not helping, it is important to have someone to help you go through the right steps and processes.