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Am I covered if I leave my front door unlocked?

Home Insurance

By Viola Wallace | September 27, 2018

Very few of us haven’t heard an older relative get nostalgic about “the good old days��? when community spirit was stronger people got on better with their neighbours and everyone left their doors unlocked at all hours without fear of theft. Few people these days however would consider leaving their home unattended and unlocked.  Sometimes it happens. You ask your kids to lock the door and they don’t or maybe your hands were full or your head was elsewhere and you neglect to lock it yourself. What if an opportunistic thief takes advantage and steals some of your belongings? Will your insurance claim be denied because of your inadvertent negligence? An unlocked front door complicates the claim process but you should still be covered with most home insurance policies .

How leaving doors unlocked may affect insurance

Interestingly in Canada the distinction between breaking and entering and theft from an unlocked home is probably of a greater concern for the thieves who are caught than for their victims making an insurance claim. Theft with “forced entry��? carries greater penalties for the perpetrator when it comes to the law but mosthome insurance policiesdo not contain any language that distinguishes thefts involving forced entry and thefts that simply took your property and left without a trace.

As long as it can be established that your possessions have been taken without your permission most policies will pay out on a claim even if your front door was unlocked or your window open. This does not mean however that a victim of theft whose house was not secured won’t face any complications with their specific claim. It’s also worth emphasizing that a minority of policies do require evidence of forced entry in the event of a claim for stolen items.

No evidence of forced entry may complicate your claim

On discovering a broken window or door lock people’s first instinct (after making sure the thief has gone) is usually to check their belongings to see what’s missing followed closely by making a report to the police. This report will help any insurance claims you make. A police report carries greater weight if it contains physical evidence of a theft and there is a greater chance that claims supported only by affidavits or a police report with no evidence of forced entry will be delayed or disputed even if your policy doesn’t specifically mention a requirement for evidence of forced entry. On top of this leaving your door unlocked may put you in a situation where significant time has passed before you notice missing items which can lead to further complications in your claim.

Be aware of misrepresentation

When your home insurance policy was originally sold to you any security measures that your home has will have been taken into account including alarm systems and locks on doors and window; better alarm systems and more secure locks can lead to lower premiums and/or lower deductibles (the proportion of expenses you are expected to personally cover in the event of a claim). If you cannot show evidence of forced entry during a theft then your insurance provider may consider that the discounts you obtained came about as a result of misrepresentation; not using your security features is the same as not having them. This can lead to delays in processing your claim and partial pay-outs.

Similarly the extra cost of any special extensions on your policy that you took out in order to cover high-value items will have been based on the double layer of security protecting these items. Leaving your door unlocked will complicate any claims you make for high-value items if thieves only had to get past your unlocked front door.

All this leads to three key pieces of advice:

  • Always make full use of the security features of your home
  • Choose your home insurance policy carefully
  • Familiarise yourself with the terms of your policy .
  • Your brokercan help recommend additional security and home insurance policies that fit your needs. They’re also happy to answer any of your questions and help you to understand your policy.

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