Contents and personal liability

How can I protect my home from break-ins?

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Source: iStock / tommaso79

Burglary season arrives in autumn and continues through the winter. As dusk falls earlier, there are more opportunities for burglars to enter your property. Comparis shows you how to secure your home against break-ins effectively. 

Autumn and winter – peak season for burglars

Burglary season begins in autumn when it gets dark earlier. After the clocks go back for winter towards the end of October, Swiss insurance companies register considerably more cases of home thefts. And yet many break-ins are avoidable, if you know what steps to take. If you do have a break-in, contents insurance will cover the cost. 

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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. Remember to lock the doors to your patio as well. 

Close windows

Crafty burglars can open tilted windows easily and without having to use force. So when you go out, make sure you close all windows. From an insurance point of view, a tilted window is classed as an “open” window. The same applies to a window that has been left ajar. In such cases, there is no need for the burglar to use force to gain entry. The incident is then not considered burglary but simple theft. In other words, cash that has not been locked away and other high-value items like securities and precious metals are not covered. 

Notify the neighbours

Having neighbours you can trust is extremely useful. Let them know if you aren't going to be in, so they can keep a watchful eye on your home. 

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. You can also arrange for the post office to hold back your mail while you are away. 

Be careful when hiding a key

Thieves like to check for keys under door mats and plant pots and in postboxes. Instead of hiding keys somewhere, leave a set with a trustworthy neighbour. 

Look out for markings on walls, postboxes or doors

Criminals communicate with each other using a scribbled code based on a series of simple signs and symbols. An X, for example, means that there is “something worth stealing” here. 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 to call too early than too late” is the advice given in the Swiss police safety guide (in German, French and Italian only). Very important: don’t play the hero and try to intervene. And don't be tempted to clear up the scene of the crime yourself.

Activity deters

The best way to protect yourself from burglary is to stay at home – or make it look that way. If you are away for a longer period of time, you could consider installing light timers, smart bulbs or fake TV simulators. 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 a smart home security kit that can be controlled easily via an app.

Get your locks checked

All a burglar needs is a standard screwdriver to open unsecured windows and doors. Check that your door lock conforms to the latest standards. Fitting additional door locking devices will make it more difficult for intruders to gain access.

Don't advertise your absence

Criminals use social media to figure out when you are likely to be away. It's therefore not a good idea to post on Facebook or similar that you are on holiday. 

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 replacement 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 basic home contents cover. This covers incidents such as the theft of a bicycle from your garage. However, there are some restrictions: cash that has not been locked away and other high-value items like securities and precious metals, for instance, are not covered.

  • “Simple theft away from home”
  • If you want insurance cover for when you are out and about, you need to add “simple theft away from home” to your policy. Lost or mislaid items are not usually replaced. Cash and high-value items are not insured either. A separate maximum sum insured applies to “simple theft away from home” cover. This is usually between 2,000 and 5,000 francs. 

Consequential damage

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.

Tip: adjust the sum insured in your contents policy regularly to reflect the value of your household goods. If you buy an expensive bicycle, for example, it is a good idea to increase the sum insured for “simple theft away from home”. This way, you avoid being underinsured.

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