BUSINESS

Insurance policy updates recommended to ensure adequate coverage from home thefts

10/09/2014 04:37 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST
MONTREAL - Victims of home theft often find out too late that their insurance policies fall short of covering sentimental family heirlooms - such as grandmother's gold jewelry.

But it's those small, valuable items that can be easily removed from the home and sold quickly for cash that appeal to thieves, more than bulky items like big screen TVs, says Glenn Cooper, a spokesman for insurance company Aviva Canada.

"They go into the master bedroom because that's where most people are going to keep some of their key valuable items," Cooper said.

Insurance Bureau of Canada spokesman Pierre Babinsky said insurance policy riders that provide specific coverage for items, like valuable art or jewelry, can be added at an additional cost. Jewelry caps can range between $2,000 and $6,000 depending on policy and insurance provider.

"What we see is that often enough people underestimate the value of the goods they accumulate over the years, so an adequate update of your inventory and adjustment to your policy is the basic principle to ensure you have the proper coverage," he said.

The Co-operators recommends that customers review their policies every three years, if they increase their posessions either through purchase or inheritance, and if they make home renovations.

Spokesman Leonard Sharman said getting jewelry appraised is a good idea but not normally required. And while a home safe can add some protection, they can be stolen. Using a bank safety deposit is more secure but would make it more difficult to access your personal items.

"Take the time to go over your policy with the adviser to make sure that you understand what is covered and what is not, that you're comfortable with your deductibles, that your limits are the appropriate ones and that you're making your decisions with full information," said spokesman Leonard Sharman.

Deductibles can range between $500 and $2,500. Some people choose to increase the deductible to reduce their premiums, but will have to pay our more if they make a claim.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says insurance policies typically offer enough coverage for most families, since thefts are not as costly as water and fire damage. Only about seven or eight per cent of all insurance claims are for stolen property. Water damage accounts for about half of claims, followed by fire at 20 per cent.

Insurance companies suggest people catalogue their possessions to make it easier to support an eventual claim. While a detailed written list is best, a video can also be helpful.

Home break and entries have declined sharply in recent years — falling 42 per cent over the last decade, according to Statistics Canada.

While the number of events is decreasing, the cost of claims is on the rise due to higher gold and silver prices and the prevalence of expensive small electronic gadgets.

The average value of a burglary claim has increased 27 per cent over the last five years to $7,243 from nearly $5,700, says Aviva Canada.

It says burglaries are highest in Quebec, at almost two times the national average. The Atlantic provinces have the lowest frequency. Friday is the most popular day for break-ins and claims increase dramatically over the summer months.

Prevention is key.

Experts say far too many burglars rely on the complacency of their victims by entering a home through open windows and doors.

They suggest avoid leaving an impression that your home isn't occupied. That means making arrangements during vacations so newspapers and mail don't collect on the front step, asking a neighbour to park their car in your driveway and use timers for indoor and outdoor lights.

Social media can also be a problem since posting vacation photos while still on vacation effectively notifies people that you aren't home, especially if your social media friends do not have tight privacy settings.

Signs of a home security system can prompt burglars to seek easier targets, but it doesn't eliminate the risk of break-ins, said Franco isncois Champagne, executive director of the Canadian Security Association, which represents the country's security system industry.

"People will still be able to kick in the door or throw something through the window and get into the premises...(But) it effectively reduces the amount of time an intruder will stay on premise and reduces the overall losses."

An estimated 20 per cent of homes in North America have security systems. While they are more common in higher priced homes in urban centres, the rapid decline in prices over the last 15 years has made them affordable to more homeowners and tenants, he said.

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