Vandalism

Reviewed by Stefan Tirschler

Noun

van·dal·ism | ˈvændəˌlɪzəm

Definition: Intentional damage to property owned by someone other than the perpetrator.

Comprehensive insurance policies automatically include coverage for vandalism or malicious acts.

What is vandalism?

Vandalism is intentional damage to insured property by a third party.

The “damage” comes in many varieties: graffiti, broken windows, cut-down trees, dug-up gardens, a house covered in eggs… the list goes on.

A “third party” means anyone who doesn’t have coverage under an insurance policy. Most home insurance policies extend coverage to direct family members of the person who bought the policy. If any of those covered people cause the damage, it’s not considered vandalism.

Some insurance policies use the term “vandalism and malicious acts” or “malicious mischief.” They’re all very closely related terms. If someone intentionally damages your home or your stuff (someone other than you or your family members), it’s almost always considered vandalism from an insurance perspective.

Will homeowner’s insurance cover vandalism?

Home insurance almost always covers vandalism and malicious acts. Even basic named perils policies typically include coverage for vandalism.

There are a couple of conditions, though, where your home insurance policy might not cover an act of vandalism.

First, the vandalized property must be something that you’re responsible for. If you’re a homeowner, that’s basically everything you own as well as your home itself.

It’s a little different for condo owners or renters, though.

A condo owner is only responsible for their own unit within the building. If their unit or their possessions are vandalized, their condo insurance policy would respond. If the vandal strikes the condo building’s shared property, however, the condo owner’s policy would not respond. Instead, the condo corporation would have to make a claim against the building’s master policy. Shared property in a condo is everything outside the individual units: the lobby, building exterior, hallways, elevators, and so on.

Renters, meanwhile, aren’t responsible for dealing with vandalism to any part of the building they live in; they only need to insure their own possessions. If vandals strike your apartment building or other rented home, your landlord will make a claim with their own insurance provider to cover the damage. Only if the vandals damaged your stuff would you need to make a claim on your tenant insurance policy.

The second exception to vandalism applies to vacant homes.

Vacant buildings are prime targets for vandals. As such, many home insurance providers don’t cover vandalism claims for vacant homes. Even those that do require the homeowner to notify them about the vacancy to have coverage.

Exactly when a home becomes “vacant” is sometimes confusing. Make sure to read our article on occupancy if you’re not sure.

Basically, you must inform your insurer if your home becomes vacant. If your home is vacant, but your insurer doesn’t know, they might not pay any claims for vandalism (or anything else, for that matter). That’s especially problematic since vacant homes are more susceptible to vandalism and break-ins.

Note that being away from home temporarily doesn’t make it vacant; your home isn’t considered vacant while you’re on vacation, for example.

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How do you deal with vandalism at home?

There are a few precautions you can take to guard your home against vandalism. Here are a few things you can do to deter vandals, even while you’re away from home:

  • Install adequate lighting. Light is one of the best ways to deter would-be criminals. Install a timer for your home’s indoor lights, so they come on for a while in the evening while you’re away. Install motion detectors for your outdoor lights, and make sure the lights cover much of your property.

  • Make friends with your neighbours. Knowing and trusting your neighbours is invaluable. They can inform you if they’ve seen anyone suspicious hanging around your house and can take action if your home gets vandalized while you’re away. A house that sits vandalized for several days becomes even more enticing to criminals of all kinds.

  • Make sure you’re set for security devices. A fence and a locked gate are enough to deter many vandals who are just looking for an easy property to access. Make sure your doors and windows are secure to keep people out of your home as well. You may also consider installing alarm or camera systems if you’re particularly concerned.

If you are the unfortunate target of vandalism or mischief, one of the first things you should do is file a police report. You should also take care to secure your home immediately. If windows or doors are broken, board them up until you can get them repaired properly.

Document the damage, including photos and descriptions of damaged or destroyed property.

As promptly as you can, contact your home insurance provider to start the claims process. Your claims adjuster will take your statement on the incident, collect your documentation of the damage, and ensure that you’ve reported the vandalism to the police.

Once everything’s in order, the adjuster will guide you through the steps of having the damage repaired.

The important points

  • Vandalism is intentional damage to property by a third party.
  • Most home insurance policies cover vandalism, though there are usually restrictions for vacant homes.
  • If your property is vandalized, start by making a police report and securing your home, then begin the claims process with your insurance provider.
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