Tuesday 6 December 2016

Burglars add €4,000 to home cover bills

Many towns had more burglaries in the first half of 2015 than in the whole of 2014, writes Louise McBride

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Cartoon by Tom Halliday
Cartoon by Tom Halliday

Homeowners could pay as much as €4,000 more for their home insurance over the lifetime of their mortgage if they live in a burglary blackspot.

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This is because it can cost up to 40pc more to insure homes in areas which are prone to break-ins.

As some parts of the country have seen a 55pc jump in burglaries over the last year, more homeowners could find themselves having to pay hundreds of euro more a year for their house cover than they have previously - because their area has become more susceptible to break-ins.

Many insurers have noticed an increase in claims arising from burglaries in recent years.

Theft claims at Aviva were 10pc higher in 2014 than they were in 2013.

Liberty has also seen an increase in claims arising from burglaries. "In 2014 we saw an increase of over 10pc," said a spokesman for Liberty.

A spokesman for Allianz said it has noticed an increase in the cost of settling burglary claims.

A rise in claims costs is one of the things which insurers use to justify price hikes. Of course, there are a number of things which can push up the cost of your home insurance. Those living in an area prone to flooding or subsidence will often pay over the odds for home cover - if they can get it at all. Equally though, houses in areas often targeted by burglars will usually be more expensive to insure than homes in safer pockets of the country.

Blackspots that will cost you

Dublin's Tallaght has the highest rate of burglaries in the country, with 938 burglaries recorded for 2014 - and 499 for the first six months of this year.

Let's say you're living in a three-bed semi-detached home. Your property, which is 30-years-old, has a rebuilding cost of €200,000 and you want to insure €30,000 worth of contents. You have never made a house insurance claim. You have a house alarm, security locks fitted on your doors and windows, and smoke alarms. You don't live in an area prone to flooding or subsidence. You're 53-years-old.

So far so good.

State that Dalkey is your address and Allianz would quote you €290.76 a year for home cover.

However, were your address Jobstown, which is a suburb of Tallaght, the quote would be €405.86. So it costs the Jobstown homeowner €115 more a year to insure their home than someone living in Dalkey - even though the property and customer profile are similar. The Jobstown homeowner would therefore pay an extra €4,025 in home insurance bills over the lifetime of a 35-year mortgage than the Dalkey resident would. (Most lenders insist you take out home insurance as a condition of your mortgage). Dalkey has only a fraction of the burglaries that Jobstown has.

Cork city has seen a 34pc rise in burglaries over the last year. West Cork on the other hand, which includes towns like Macroom and Clonakilty, has seen a 34pc drop. Macroom had less than a handful of burglaries in the first six months of this year.

A homeowner with a similar property and customer profile to the Dalkey resident would pay €235 a year for home cover were his property based in Macroom, according to the online insurance broker, insuremyhouse.ie. However, the cost of that cover would rise to €339.80 - about 45pc more - if the property was based on the northside of Cork city, which is more prone to burglaries.

Coolock, on Dublin's northside, had four times as many burglaries as the village of Lusk did in the first six months of this year. It would cost €275 to insure the same home in Coolock - but €230 if the property is in Lusk, according to insuremyhouse.ie.

Other areas of the capital which have traditionally had high burglary rates - and where home insurance is often more expensive as a result - include Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Ballyfermot, Finglas and Crumlin. The number of break-ins in Donnybrook, Blackrock, Clontarf, Rathfarnham, Howth and Dun Laoghaire has also shot up in recent years.

Outside of Dublin, some areas where burglary rates are often high include Dundalk and Drogheda, Co Louth; Limerick City; Athlone, Co Westmeath; Navan, Co Meath; Athy, Co Kildare; and Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Could my address  become a burglary blackspot?

Even if you live in an area which was never considered a burglary blackspot, a surge in break-ins across the country could mean that it is only a matter of time before it is viewed as such.

Many towns and villages have already seen more burglaries for the first six months of this year than was the case for the whole of 2014. In Kilcock, Co Kildare for example, 43 break-ins were recorded for the first six months of this year -compared to 34 for the whole of 2014. The number of burglaries in the Cavan town of Belturbet has more than doubled over the last year. The same is true of Kildorrery in North Cork. There has been a 55pc rise in break-ins in the Cork North garda division - which includes Kildorrery - over the last year.

The Tipperary villages of Littleton, Borrisokane and Golden have already had as many break-ins in the first six months of this year as they did for the entire year of 2014. Many rural villages and towns have a similar tale.

What is targeted by robbers?

It is usually jewellery, cash and electronic equipment that are targeted during burglaries.

Households with sought-after cars are often broken into too.

"Sometimes, thieves who are attracted by a car gain entry to a house in search of the car keys - and they might grab something nearby such as a handbag, laptop or tablet," said a spokeswoman for Aviva.

It is worth arranging separate cover if you have particularly valuable items in your home, such as expensive jewellery and paintings. Most standard home insurance policies don't cover valuables worth more than a few thousand euro.

Mainstream home insurers offer you the option of paying extra to separately insure valuable items in your home - but even that extra cover may not be sufficient if you have something very valuable at home.

Cover for particularly valuable items must usually be arranged through a specialist insurer (such as Chubb Insurance or Lloyds of London).

Be careful with alarms too. Most insurers offer a discount should you have a house alarm. Be sure however that your alarm meets the standard set out by your insurer before you claim that discount - and that you have your alarm turned on whenever you are out. Otherwise, your insurer could refuse to cover you. Your insurer may increase your excess (the first part of claim you pay for yourself) if you didn't have your alarm on while out of the house at the time of a burglary.

"We will now double the policy excess if an alarm system is not in operation during a theft or attempted theft," said a spokeswoman for Aviva. "This change is instead of declining claims completely in such circumstances."

Aggravated burglaries

The rise in aggravated burglaries, where families are held at gunpoint, has become a concern to many homeowners - particularly in isolated, rural areas where nearby garda stations have recently closed. Most of the aggravated burglaries so far this year took place in Dublin, followed by the south and east of the country.

People often need counselling after such violent break-ins, while many others are injured.

Most home insurance policies offer little, if any, cover for such injuries or counselling. A spokesman for Liberty said it doesn't have any "specific policy relating to aggravated burglaries."

Aviva doesn't offer cover for non-life threatening injuries sustained in an aggravated burglary. "We offer cover if the injuries result in the death of the insured and/or their domestic partner - within three months of the incident," said a spokeswoman for Aviva.

"The benefit payable is up to a maximum of €3,300 per person."

Allianz home insurance policies pay out €5,000 "in the event of death by accident, as a result of assault by thieves on the premises".

The cover for death arising from injuries sustained during an aggravated burglary varies from insurer to insurer - so shop around if you live in an area which is vulnerable to violent break ins. FBD for example pays out up to €30,000 should you or your spouse die within three months of an injury sustained during a violent burglary in your home.

Last year, there were 317 aggravated burglaries - almost 7pc more than in 2013. The bulk of these were committed in the last three months of 2014. In the first six months of this year, 150 aggravated burglaries were reported. At this rate, home insurers will have to respond to the rise in aggravated burglaries soon - by improving the paltry cover they currently offer for it.

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