Coming home to find your house has been burglarized can be a traumatic experience. Unlike damages to your car, or an act of Mother Nature, a home burglary can create a feeling of being “violated” because someone has entered your home and rummaged through your belongings.
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What was once your sanctuary has now become a crime scene, which layers on additional stress to an already tense situation. Add to that the process of filing an insurance claim and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Here are five steps from insuranceQuotes to make the process more manageable:
1. Go to a safe place immediately
Above all else the safety of you and your family should be the first concern. You may discover a ransacked house or just a broken window or open door. Always err on the side of caution because you have no way of knowing if the thieves are still inside your home.
Upon first discovering something amiss, relocate to a safe area, such as your neighbor’s home.
2. Call the police
Most insurance companies require a police report of theft before they will process a claim. Even if you don’t know if anything is missing, contact the police. This will generate a report and also provide data to law enforcement officials that they can use to discover crime patterns in your neighborhoods. That, in turn, could lead to more patrols in the future.
Let the police do a walk-through of your home before you do.
3. Contact your insurance company
Once the police have searched the house it’s time to think about filing a claim on your homeowners insurance.
You may not realize this but you can contact most insurance companies 24/7. Reporting a claim can be as simple as logging on to a website or calling the main number of your carrier.
And don’t forget the option for a personal touch. Many insurance agents make their cell phone number available to clients and can be reached in case of an emergency to offer you peace of mind. Often just knowing someone cares and is personally available to answer questions makes the claim process easier.
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Be prepared under this stressful situation to forget some items that may have been stolen. That’s OK. Your agent can help you even down the road. Keeping documentation of what you own is smart and remember that some items in your home, such as jewelry, require an insurance rider that's additional to your homeowners policy.
4. Take a home inventory to determine what's missing
Are your belongings insured for actual cash value (replacement cost minus depreciation) or replacement cost (the amount to replace an item at current prices)? Most policies provide compensation on an actual cash value basis rather than a replacement cost basis. Talk with your agent to determine whether purchasing replacement cost coverage is worth the extra premium.
What if your stolen property is later returned? That can be tricky. If you’ve received payment from a claim then your insurance company may actually own the property. Contact them immediately so you don't accidentally commit fraud.
Be aware that more than just tangible items may have been stolen during a burglary.
"A burglar can easily obtain credit card information, Social Security numbers or other identification information by going over personal documents in a home or stealing the family computer,” says Loretta Worters, vice president for the Insurance Information Institute.
5. Plan for immediate future, long-term protection
If your home is uninhabitable due to a burglary your insurance company may compensate you for temporary lodging. Once you've made immediate living arrangements, it's time to help prevent another future theft or break-in.
The Insurance Information Institute offers these tips.
• Take the time to "case" your house or apartment, just as a burglar would. Where is the easiest entry? How can you make it more burglar-resistant.
• Trim trees and shrubs near doors and windows, and think carefully before installing a high, wooden fence around your back yard. High fences and shrubbery can add to your privacy, but can also be an asset to a burglar. Consider trading a little extra privacy for a bit of added security.
• Force any would-be burglar to confront a real enemy — light. Exterior lights and motion detectors, mounted out of easy reach, can reduce the darkness a burglar finds comforting.
• Simple security devices — nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars and bolts—can increase the amount of time it takes to break into your home.
• Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective ones also ring at an outside service.
• Are any of your valuables — paintings, a silver collection or a computer — easy to see from outside the house? Rearranging your furnishings might be advisable if it makes your home less inviting to criminals.