Theft during an open house not covered by most insurers

Recent CCTV footage captured a theft that took place at a house while the house was on show to potential buyers.

This footage highlights how important it is for sellers to ensure that their belongings are properly insured against theft which may occur during an open house day, says Christelle Colman, chief executive of MUA Insurance Acceptances.

She says sellers who plans to have their house made open to members of the public on a show day must inform their insurance provider or broker about the arrangement.

“While show days are part of the key process of selling your property, there are various insurance risks associated with them.”

“If an expensive item goes missing from the home during the show day, most insurance policies won’t pay out, as they generally require signs of forcible or violent entry and/ or exit – unless there is actual CCTV footage that captures the crime,” she says.

“When you open your home for potential buyers, you also face the risk of criminals pretending to be interested buyers entering the home who then investigate the house in search of valuable items to steal or to cause intentional damage to the home. It is also very hard to recognise signs of suspect behaviour among the house visitors on the day as the home is open for all members of the public to view and can become quite crowded at stages,” says Colman.

In addition to theft, you also face increased risk of accidental damage to your possessions during a show day. Colman says that accidents happen easily and a visitor can knock over an expensive artwork or drop a cellphone and damage the floor tiles.

“When the insurance broker is aware of the open day, the broker will ensure that the correct level of cover is in place. If the broker is not able to apply the cover due at short notice, you will at least be made aware of all the potential risks associated with an open day and can implement stringent entry measures on the day,” she says.

As a precautionary measure, it is advisable to lock all valuable items away in a safe when you know a group of strangers will enter your home, says Colman.

“When it comes to expensive possessions such as jewellery, most insurers require that items worth more than a certain amount should be locked away in a safe when not on the owner’s person. Items such as laptops and cell phones should also not be left unattended in the house and cupboards and drawers should be locked while potential buyers are roaming around the house.”

She says sellers should only deal with reputable estate agents to arrange open days, as the agents may have their own insurance cover in place to protect their clients against the risks of hosting an open house.

“You should also instruct the agent to get a full profile of each person they let into the home, as the best precaution is to take great care of who is allowed inside the property. If CCTV cameras are installed in the property, it is vital to ensure that these are switched on and are in a proper working order on the day of showing house to safeguard against any criminal activity.

“You need to be aware of any limitations in your insurance policy to be better prepared ahead of the show day and prevent or minimise personal financial losses. Most insurance policies require you to take all reasonable steps to avoid, minimise or prevent loss as the insurer could repudiate your insurance claim due to negligence,” says Colman.

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