Contents and personal liability

How can I protect my home from break-ins?

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After the clocks go back for winter, Swiss insurance companies register 20 per cent more cases of home thefts. Source: iStock / tommaso79

Burglary season arrives in autumn and continues through the winter. As dusk falls earlier, burglars have more opportunities to strike under cover of darkness. Comparis shows you how to secure your home against break-ins effectively.

Break-ins are a regular occurrence right across Switzerland. According to a Comparis study from 2016, almost 50 per cent of all household contents losses are caused by burglary. Each break-in costs insurance companies an average of 8,400 francs.

Autumn and winter – peak season for burglars

There are never as many break-ins as in autumn and winter – mainly because it goes dark earlier. The cover of dusk gives intruders a window of opportunity to strike before the unsuspecting occupants return from work. After the clocks go back for winter, Swiss insurance companies register 20 per cent more cases of home thefts. And yet many break-ins are avoidable. Comparis has compiled a list of key tips for protecting yourself against burglary, simple theft and robbery.

How can I protect myself from break-ins?

Lock doors

Even if you're just popping out for a few minutes, always lock the door to your home.

Close windows

Burglars can open tilted windows easily and without having to use force. So when you go out, make sure you close all windows, balcony doors and patio doors.

Notify the neighbours

Having neighbours you can trust is of enormous benefit. Let them know if you aren't going to be in, so they can keep a watchful eye out. 

Get your postbox emptied

Burglars look specifically for overflowing postboxes when searching for unoccupied homes. If you are going to be away for a longer period, ask your neighbours to empty your postbox regularly. Alternatively, you can ask the post office to hold your mail for this period. 

Be careful when hiding a key

Thieves like to check for keys under door mats, in postboxes or in flower pots. If possible, give the key to a trustworthy neighbour instead of hiding it somewhere.

Look out for markings on walls or doors

Criminals communicate with each other using a code of scribbled signs and symbols. Make a note of markings on walls, doors or postboxes, take a photo of them and report them to the police. You should then remove the markings. 

Don't hesitate to call the police

If you notice something suspicious or catch a burglar in the act, you should alert the police as quickly as possible by calling the emergency number 117. "Better call too early than too late" is the advice given in the Swiss police safety guide. Very important: don't intervene or clear up the scene of the crime afterwards yourself. 

Install light timers or similar

Install light timers, smart bulbs and fake TV simulators in your home. Light is a deterrent, and creates the impression that you are at home. Many break-in attempts can be thwarted early on by the presence of motion detectors in the hallway, on the terrace or by the garage. Another good solution is to invest in smart bulbs or a smart home security kit that can be controlled easily via an app.

Get your locks checked

Many locks are almost as easy for criminals to open as unlocked doors. So it's important to have your lock checked by a professional.

Who pays in the event of loss and damage from a burglary?

In most cases, home contents insurance covers loss and damage caused by burglaries. Insurance policies distinguish between different types of theft:

Burglary

If a thief breaks a pane of glass or picks a lock to enter the home, the event is considered to be burglary. This kind of damage is included in basic household insurance cover, which pays out for the stolen and damaged property at their original value. Jewellery and cash are usually only covered up to a certain value.

Robbery

This term is used to describe thefts made under threat or through use of violence. These thefts are covered by basic household insurance.

Simple theft

This type of theft is also known as “petty theft” or “petty larceny”. It refers to thefts that are neither burglaries nor robberies. There are no major obstacles for the thief to overcome. A distinction is made between “simple theft at home” and “simple theft away from home”.

“Simple theft at home”

“Simple theft at home” is included in the basic cover. However, there are some restrictions: cash that has not been locked away and other items with a monetary value (travel passes, tickets etc.) are not covered. Depending on the policy, other restrictions may apply:

Example: Your bicycle is stolen from the bicycle cellar.

“Simple theft away from home”

If you want insurance cover for when you are out and about, you need to take out “simple theft away from home” cover separately. Lost or mislaid items are not usually replaced. Cash and other items with a monetary value are not insured either. A separate maximum sum insured applies to the “simple theft away from home” add-on. This is usually 2,000 francs.

Example: You park your bicycle against a lamp post in the city, and it gets stolen.

Consequential damage

Home contents insurance also pays out for consequential damage resulting from a break-in, such as a broken door lock or a smashed window. The maximum amount that is compensated is usually defined separately – check your policy for details.

Important tip: adjust the sum insured in your contents policy regularly to ensure you have sufficient cover in the event of burglary or theft. It's also worth switching or comparing home contents insurance from time to time – you may be able to save a few hundreds francs a year.