Does Home Insurance Cover Vandalism?

Discovering someone has vandalized your home can make you feel like your privacy has been invaded. It can also make you fear for your family’s safety, on top of having to deal with minor or major property damage. During this difficult time, make the homeowners insurance process as easy as possible. Find out whether your insurance company will cover damage from vandalism – and how to negotiate a claim – before you make the call.

What Is Vandalism?

Vandalism, also called malicious mischief or criminal mischief, is the crime of intentionally damaging another person’s property. Vandalism can harm, alter or completely destroy property. Common types of vandalism range from graffiti to toilet-papering a house.

  • Graffitiing a house
  • Stickering property
  • Starving things into trees or fences
  • Keying a car
  • Slashing a car’s tires
  • Breaking windows
  • Egging a house
  • Defacing property
  • Smashing mailboxes
  • Knocking over gravestones
  • Damaging street signs

Vandalism of a home can range from covering it in toilet paper to smashing the windows and spray-painting the siding. Each year, vandalism costs home and business owners billions of dollars in damage.

Homeowners Insurance and Vandalism

Most people think of natural disasters such as storms, fires and floods when they think about homeowners insurance claims. They may not think about other potential sources of damage, such as theft or vandalism, until these crimes occur. As a homeowner, it will relieve you to find that most basic home insurance policies cover vandalism and theft damage. In a general vandalism scenario, a homeowners insurance company will investigate the claim, inspect the damage, request a professional repair estimate and offer a reasonable settlement to remedy the damage from the vandals.

Many basic homeowners insurance plans also cover arson. Arson is the intentional setting of someone else’s home or structure on fire. It could also refer to reckless fire-starting, even if it was not intentional. If a vandal throws a firework on your porch, for example, and it catches your home on fire, this could be a coverable type of damage. It is important, however, to call your insurance company and ask outright about your coverage. Ask if your current plan covers vandalism and fire by vandalism. If not, consider upgrading your policy.

Vacant-Home Insurance

In some cases, an insurance company may make it more difficult to obtain a settlement for vandalism damage. The most common claim denial scenario is if the homeowner left the property vacant for 30 days or more. If the owner was away on vacation, living in a different home or the home was listed for sale while empty for more than 30 days, the insurance company may try to blame the vandalism on the homeowner’s negligence. It is the property owner’s duty to take reasonable steps to protect a vacant home from vandals.

Vandalism prevention methods for an empty home can include a video surveillance system, alarms, a locked gate, motion-sensor floodlights, real estate signs that say do not disturb occupants and a trusted friend or family member regularly checking on the house. These are reasonable steps a homeowner could take to try to prevent vandalism or theft. If the homeowner did not take any steps to protect a home he or she left empty for longer than 30 days, the insurer may try to deny the claim.

In most cases, the only way a homeowners insurance company will pay for vandalism damage to an empty home is if the owner had purchased vacant-home insurance ahead of time. If you plan on being away from your home longer than 30 days, call your insurance company and let them know. You can purchase a month-to-month vacant-home insurance policy that will cover vandalism even with an increased risk of this crime. If your insurance company denies your claim, get assistance with negotiations from an insurance claims attorney.