Cover mine­field for a safe’s con­tents

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MANY home­own­ers have be­gun installing safes in their homes in an ef­fort to pro­tect their valu­able and ir­re­place­able items from theft, loss or dam­age.

While this can be an ex­cel­lent way to pro­tect valu­ables, it is vi­tal for home own­ers to read and fully un­der­stand all the terms and con­di­tions in their in­sur­ance poli­cies when us­ing a safe, or they could find that a claim may be re­pu­di­ated.

Look­ing at sta­tis­tics from the South African Po­lice Ser­vice Crime Re­port for 2010/2011, a to­tal of 247 630 bur­glar­ies and 16 889 rob­beries were re­ported at res­i­den­tial premises, so it makes sense for most home own­ers to have a safe in­stalled in their homes.

Typ­i­cally, cover for items stored in a res­i­den­tial safe falls un­der a stan­dard home in­sur­ance pol­icy. How­ever, most poli­cies stip­u­late that items over a cer­tain value — for ex­am­ple, jew­ellery over the value of R50 000 — must be stored in a safe if it is not be­ing worn or used by the in­sured at the time.

When it comes to stor­ing cash in a safe sim­i­lar lim­i­ta­tions ap­ply. Poli­cies may state that any cash over the value of R25 000 must be stored in a locked safe.

It should be noted that in­sur­ers will have dif­fer­ent stip­u­la­tions and lim­i­ta­tions, so it is cru­cial for the pol­i­cy­holder to un­der­stand the terms and con­di­tions of an in­sur­ance pol­icy.

Most in­sur­ance poli­cies de­mand that signs of forcible or vi­o­lent en­try into the safe, or re­moval of the safe from the house, must be present in or­der for the claim to be paid. Un­less the pol­i­cy­holder was held at gun­point and asked to open the safe, it must be clear that the con­tents of the safe were taken by force and the safe was not sim­ply left un­locked.

It is im­per­a­tive when stor­ing valu­ables in a safe that the con­tents and value of the items stored are de­clared at the in­cep­tion of the in­sur­ance pol­icy. If the in­sured does not in­form the in­surer of the con­tents of the safe the pol­icy might not cover loss or dam­age of the valu­ables.

For ex­am­ple, if a home owner takes out a home in­sur­ance pol­icy to cover their home con­tents to the value of R1m, but for­gets to de­clare the ad­di­tional con­tents of the safe worth R500 000, the home­owner will be un­der­in­sured by R500 000. Should the con­tents be stolen or dam­aged the claim will then be sub­ject to the av­er­age amount. It is there­fore of the ut­most im­por­tance when home­own­ers are con­duct­ing their in­ven­tory for in­sur­ance pur­poses that they in­clude the items stored in their safe in the to­tal sum in­sured.

Some poli­cies may also re­quire that a cer­tain cat­e­gory of safe is used in or­der for the cover to be valid. The dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of safes range from cat­e­gory one to four and are de­ter­mined by the amount of time needed to open the safe.

Con­sumers must choose a re­li­able safe and bolt it down so that it im­pedes re­moval. Make sure the safe is fire re­sis­tant so that all ir­re­place­able doc­u­ments, such as iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­pers, birth cer­tifi­cates, wills and hard drives con­tain­ing pre­cious fam­ily pho­tos are not dam­aged in the event of a fire.

It is also im­por­tant for in­sur­ance pol­i­cy­hold­ers to un­der­stand that when they are trav­el­ling the same rules ap­ply for stor­age re­quire­ments of valu­ables as stip­u­lated in their poli­cies. If the pol­icy re­quires that the items must be stored in a safe when not worn they must ad­here to this while on hol­i­day by stor­ing the items in the ho­tel safe to en­sure the items will be cov­ered in the event of a claim.

An­other use­ful tip when trav­el­ling is to store a backup of all trav­ellers’ cheques, copies of pass­ports and other travel doc­u­ments in a safe at home or a safety de­posit box at the bank be­fore de­part­ing on hol­i­day.

This will en­sure that should these doc­u­ments get stolen or dam­aged while on hol­i­day you can ask a close fam­ily mem­ber to send copies of the doc­u­ments to avoid any ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sues while abroad.

Stud­ies have shown that dur­ing a break-in or rob­bery, bur­glars tend to head straight for the be­d­room to lo­cate any valu­ables and a safe, as this is the most com­mon lo­ca­tion for these items.

There­fore, it is ad­vis­able to in­stall your safe in a place that is least ex­pected, such as in a cel­lar, un­der wooden floor boards, in the bathroom or in the kitchen.

As with most in­sur­ance poli­cies, when it comes to stor­ing valu­ables in safes the best ad­vice is to un­der­stand the re­quire­ments of your in­sur­ance pol­icy in or­der to en­sure that when it comes time to sub­mit a claim the process runs smoothly.

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