By Francois Smit
Falling victim to theft is traumatic at the best of times, but it can become a whole lot more complicated if the perpetrator of the crime is someone you know and trust. And while many of us make adequate provisions for unwelcome intrusions by unknown criminals, we're typically unprepared in the event of a theft carried out by an employee or an ex-spouse.
These types of incidents are more common than one might think and present additional problems from an insurance perspective should the perpetrator have authorised access to the property. Most insurance policies provide cover against theft only in instances of forced entry, which means that your claim isn’t covered if the crime took place unimpeded.
As such, it's important to exercise extreme caution when handing over copies of your keys and to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of your insurance policy in order to take the necessary precautions to protect you from potentially devastating losses.
Here are a few examples of theft that could potentially fall outside the bounds of your existing insurance policy:
Divorce and separation
In the event of an acrimonious separation, consider having your locks changed, as any theft or damages reported as a result of unforced entry are unlikely to be covered by your insurer. Equally, should a vengeful ex take it upon themselves to sell or damage a vehicle listed in both your names, you're likely to experience problems filing a claim, particularly if the estranged spouse in question's listed address is still the same as yours. Should you find yourself in such a position, make sure that you understand the ins and outs of your insurance policy, and take the necessary steps to prevent unwelcome intrusions.
Understanding the definition of 'authorised access' as stated in your insurance contract is also important when it comes to employees or contractors who are granted access to your property. In cases of theft, the onus will be on you to prove that entry was forced, which can be especially difficult in instances where employees like domestic workers are given their own set of keys. As such, it's best to exercise extreme caution when handing out keys to your home, and only in cases where you implicitly trust the recipient thereof.
The same principle of authorised access applies to online scams should it be proven that you've not exercised due diligence during the course of a transaction. For instance, should you decide to sell a car privately and part with the merchandise before confirming receipt of payment with your bank directly, a message and/or SMS from your bank will not suffice, you'll have very little recourse in terms of filing a claim, as your behaviour could be considered negligent. Prior to conducting any private transaction, ensure you have confirmation of payment obtained directly from your bank, before fulfilling your side of the bargain.
Remember that while your insurance policy is designed to protect you against unexpected damage, loss and theft, the onus is on you to ensure that you take the necessary measures to prevent avoidable disasters. It's always a good idea to take precautions when offering up your home to others, and to familiarise yourself with the terms of your insurance policy to prevent any financially devastating outcomes. Remember, if you're not entirely sure of what the terms in your policy mean, contact your insurer to clarify your rights and responsibilities.
Francois Smit is Claims General Manager at MiWay Insurance.