Don't throw your theft claim out of the window

Do you have a cleaner, or do workmen ever have access to your home when you are not there? Are you tempted to leave windows open during hot summer days when you are out? Despite spending more and more money on security, thousands of householders may be invalidating their home insurance every day through such actions.

Claims are rejected, or subject to deductions, when the insurer considers that the policyholder is partly to blame.

An insurance policy is a contract that imposes rights and duties on both you and the insurer. You have a right to expect payment if the family silver is stolen - but you also have a duty to protect it. When the hot weather arrived last week, many people would have opened their windows and left them open when they went out. But they may have failed in their duty to keep the silver safe.

If a burglar climbs in and steals it, the insurer may take the view that the policyholder has broken the contract, leaving it under no obligation to pay the claim.

Strangers on the premises are another cause for concern. If you call in a plumber and leave him alone in the house, insurers say you may not be covered in the event of a theft. Similarly, if you hire a cleaner and fail to take up references, they could well hold that you have behaved recklessly should she turn out to be a thief.

What conduct is regarded as contributory negligence will vary from company to company - and some policy wordings are more strict than others. Mike Harvey, a claims specialist with Co-operative Insurance Services (CIS) takes the view that a window left open would probably be put down to "momentary inadvertence" rather than negligence. But in the case of the plumber or cleaner alone on the premises, "we would want to ask some serious questions about how well you knew them," he says. "If it was someone who worked in your house regularly, and you had taken up references, I think we could be persuaded that your trust in them was reasonable. But if it was a workman picked out of the phone book who you had never seen before, I think any insurer would probably take a different view." The best advice, aside from taking care in the first place, is to check your own policy wording and/or talk to your insurer in advance of any problems.

Jean Bartlett, a business executive who lives in the Midlands, found herself penalised by her insurer after she called in a builder to mend her patio door. She had seen his number advertised in a local shop window. "It was just before 5.30pm when I realised I had to collect some dry cleaning," she says. "The guy asked me to pay him before I left, because he had almost finished and had to see another customer about an estimate. "I got back 40 minutes later; the patio door was still open but the builder had gone - and when I got in I found that so had my video recorder and camera."

Ms Bartlett was paid only 50 per cent of the value of her claim because, she was told, she had failed to comply with the specific security conditions laid down in the policy. "The police couldn't prove anything against the builder, he said he couldn't find the key to lock the door, and the insurance company said that it was partly my own fault. I suppose they were right, but that still meant I had to pay over pounds 500 for the new video kit," she says.

Many home contents policies now include specific security requirements, particularly for homes in "high risk" areas. Norwich Union, for example, requires people in most areas of London, Manchester and Birmingham to fit and use key-operated bolts on ground-floor windows and those on the first floor that are regarded as accessible. "There is a condition in the policy that when you leave the premises, the windows must be locked with the keys removed and not left in view," the company says. Like most other insurers, the Norwich also specifies that doors must be fitted with five-lever mortice locks and that all doors and windows must be secured overnight, apart from those in bedrooms which are occupied.

In trying to decide whether an individual has behaved recklessly companies such as Guardian apply the "Varpt" test. Value of loss: if pounds 5,000 was stolen from a tin in the kitchen, was this an unreasonable sum to keep there? Alternatives: did they have a safe or security box in which to keep the money? Reason: why did they keep the cash in the house? Were they about to spend it or was it a nest-egg that should really have stayed in the bank? Precautions: what steps were taken to hide the money? Time: was it there overnight or for several weeks? By applying this test, insurers will decide if you were reckless or contributed to the loss, and so should not expect the full claim to be met.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering