The 'unusual requirement' that caused contents insurance claim to be declined after burglary

The home was broken into despite having security stays on the windows.
The home was broken into despite having security stays on the windows. Photo credit: Getty Images

Insurance companies are being reminded to be upfront about changes to policies after a claim was declined due to a window being left open on a security stay. 

The Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme (IFSO Scheme) was asked to intervene after a couple had their contents insurance claim declined following a burglary at their home.  

Mr and Mrs Singh returned from a holiday to discover they had become a victim of a crime. Access to their home had been gained through a small window that had been left open on a security stay. 

Their insurer initially rejected the claim, citing a failure to securely lock the house during their absence. 

The couple complained to the IFSO Scheme, which found the insurer had introduced a policy in 2020, imposing a new condition on the insured to ensure their house was "securely locked" when "unattended". 

IFSO Ombudsman Karen Stevens says other insurers do not have a similar condition in their contents insurance policies, calling it an "unusual requirement". 

Stevens said other policies often contain "reasonable care conditions" which require the holder to take care of insured property, however, it is uncommon for a contents policy to include a condition or exclusion based on property being unattended. 

"Often insurers will cover claims where a window has been unintentionally left unsecured," Stevens said.  

"If you have been reckless, grossly careless or grossly negligent with your property, an insurer may rely on your failure to meet a reasonable care condition to decline your claim, however, this was not the case with the Singhs".

The IFSO Scheme has ruled the insurer should have made the Singhs aware of the change in policy.  

"The law says that if a policy includes "onerous or unusual" conditions, insurers are required to bring them to their customers' attention. However, in this case, there was no evidence that they had specifically notified Mr and Mrs Singh about this unique condition," says Stevens. 

"While the ideal situation is where an insured has taken all steps to prevent a burglary, homeowners shouldn't be disadvantaged by an unusual or unfamiliar condition in their policy," said Stevens, "particularly where it is out of step with the rest of the industry".