San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Home Theft Insurance Not a Steal

The home theft policy of the National Insurance Institute (INS) is the most difficult the insurance company has on offer. It is said that some products and services mature over time, adapting, improving, etc. The home theft policy has certainly adapted –matured, perhaps –but it has achieved a degree of inflexibility that undermines its usefulness, so much so that people often prefer to spend their money on prevention.

Though it is understandable for INS to be gun-shy, as over the years it has been the victim of fraudulent claims, it has largely invalidated its theft policy by placing many requirements and restrictions on it and its claim procedure. Herewith, an overview:

Coverage. The home theft policy covers contents of the home appearing on an inventory list, which must be prepared by the insured. Everything within the house must be listed, not just high-risk items. We all know that if a thief gets in the house, he will take the TV, the VCR, the computer, the microwave, etc., but you can’t insure just those items; you must include the dining room table, the waterbed, the freezer, the fridge, the grand piano, etc. Items in the garden, patios, terraces and so forth can be included, but there is a surcharge.

Non-insurable Items. Jewelry, gems, precious metals, furs, securities, cash, motor vehicles, animals, collectors’ items, documents and priceless artwork can’t be insured. Lately, INS has taken to also refusing coverage on portable electronics (cameras, laptop computers, etc.) and firearms.

Damage from Breaking and Entering. If the burgled home belongs to the policyholder, INS pays for damage done to the house by the thief while entering, based on tradesmen’s bills for repairs. This insurance does not cover vandalism. (A vandal is someone who damages property with no ulterior motive.)

Premiums. Rates depend on the security and location of the home; discounts apply for good security, and surcharges for remote locations. Window bars and alarms get (non-quantified) discounts. The average rate is 1.5% per year of the total on list.

Main Policy Provisions. The policy has an awkward covenant: if the home is to be unoccupied for more than 48 hours, it must be placed in the care of a guard and INS must be notified in writing one week in advance.

Lead Time. It usually takes two to three weeks to establish a policy, so don’t apply on the eve of leaving for your annual vacation. Your agent must visit the home, and you must sign an application form and deliver your signed inventory list. INS will receive the paperwork and, selectively, send an inspector to the home. If it’s outside the Central Valley, this can take several weeks. Following, INS will determine the premium; then you can pay and finally will have home theft coverage.

Claims.Mysterious disappearances are not covered; the policy pays only in clear cases of burglary: there must be evidence of a breakin or intimidation, meaning a thief held a knife at your throat and told you to open the door, or something to that effect – farfetched, but it could happen. INS must be notified immediately after the event has been discovered.

Following is a list of requirements that must be submitted within five working days:

1. A copy of the denuncia (report) made to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), which should include an inventory of stolen items with their makes,models and serial numbers.

2. The OIJ will make an on-site inspection and issue a report; INS requires a copy.

3. A signed list of the stolen items with a detail of their age and value (must coincide with the denuncia).

4. Pro-forma invoices of items to replace those that were stolen.

5. Original invoices for repair of damage to the house from breaking and entering.

6. If the house is rented, a copy of the rental contract.

7.Copy of the identification of the insured, who must personally make the claim.

8. After three months, the OIJ will make a report of its investigation of the theft; a copy of this report is required (this is an exception to the five-day deadline mentioned above).

For stolen items, INS pays whichever is lower: the value per the insured’s list (see “Coverage” above) or the depreciated value.

It depreciates electrical items at 10% per year, and electronics at 20% per year. The deductible is 10% of the value of stolen items, with a minimum of ¢50,000 (about $100) per break-in.


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