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The Difference Between Theft, Burglary, and Vandalism, and How It Can Affect Your Insurance Claim

When your property has been broken into, vandalized, or stolen, your insurance may cover the costs to replace the items that were taken and repair damage. But, how your insurance policy handles your claim will depend on the nature of the crime. Here’s how theft, burglary, and vandalism are defined, and what to expect when filing a claim. 

How is theft defined?

Theft is defined as knowingly taking property without the property owner’s knowledge or through deception. Examples of theft include:

How is vandalism defined?

Vandalism is the act of intentionally destroying another person’s property. In addition to well-known examples like splashing paint on a garage door, vandalism can include damage to the premises as a whole, not just the structures. Examples of vandalism include:

How is burglary defined?

A burglary is defined as someone entering property without permission. Examples of burglary include:

In the course of a burglary, someone can also commit theft and/or vandalism. So, if a person picks the lock to a door to enter a business, steals money, and spray paints the walls, they’ve committed burglary, theft, and vandalism all at once.

Understanding the burglary, theft, or vandalism insurance claim process

The first thing you should know is that insurance companies are often skeptical about theft, burglary, and vandalism claims. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that, between 2013-2017, fraudulent property and casualty fraud claims totaled $30 billion each year. With numbers that high, it’s no surprise that insurance companies may be skeptical of burglary, theft, and insurance claims without proof. The first thing you can do to legitimize your claim is to contact the police. Even if the odds of locating the perpetrator of the crime are minimal, creating a police record demonstrates that you’re serious about the claim, you have nothing to hide, and you’re willing to avail yourself to investigators. 

The next thing you can do to validate your claim is provide documentation. Gather any receipts and photos of stolen items, images of damaged property, and any footage captured by your security cameras. Make your documentation as comprehensive as possible. If you don’t have receipts for everything, document as much as you can. For example, if a computer was stolen, what model was it? When did you buy it? Did you purchase any hardware upgrades? Or, if your property was vandalized, do you have pictures of what it looked like before? 

Burglary and vandalism insurance claims can be tricky

As you may have noticed, there’s some overlap between the definition of burglary and vandalism. You may be asking yourself, is that broken window an act of vandalism, or is it considered to be a burglary? It’s an important distinction, since many standard property insurance policies cover vandalism, but not stolen property. Numerous lawsuits and criminal trials have hinged on this issue. 

Here’s an example. Let’s say you arrive at your business and find that a window is broken and several laptops have been stolen. In the process of stealing the laptops, the criminals broke the expensive locks you had installed on the doors of your supply closets. If your insurance policy only covers vandalism, it may pay to replace the window, but not to replace the laptops, or repair the locks. The insurer may also say that the windows were broken in the course of a theft, and refuse to cover those damages as well.

You don’t have to deal with your claim on your own

Experiencing a burglary, theft, or act of vandalism can feel like a major violation. It undermines your sense of personal safety, and it’s frustrating for someone to just take or destroy the property that you’ve worked hard to attain. If your insurance claim is denied or if you receive an unfair settlement, it only adds insult to injury. And in the burglary vs. vandalism example above, you may need someone to help you understand what type of crime you experienced and whether your policy covers it. At Ironclaim, we understand how to decipher complex policy language to help you clearly understand what you’re entitled to under your coverage. We work with homeowners, businesses, and government agencies to ensure they receive fair settlements for their claims. And we take on much of the burden of dealing with the insurance company. To get help with your claim, get in touch with us today.


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