Cover minefield for a safe’s contents
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.