Coming home to an empty house during or after the festive season, whether you went away or were just out shopping, is a tragedy. South Africans have become quite dismissive about housebreakings, with such comments as: “At least no-one was hurt.” The reality is that the violation is very real when possessions are taken, and there is added tragedy if someone is hurt.
At this time of year, criminals rub their hands in anticipation and insurance companies start preparing for higher than usual claims, coupled to the spike in road accidents causing injury and death.
Non-life insurance penetration is low and eNaTIS statistics indicate that only around 35% of vehicles on South Africa’s roads are insured — the statistics for housing are even worse. These indicate that of the almost 78% of South African households who live in formal houses, insurance penetration is only 4% for home contents and 3% for building cover.
Now that the silly season is upon us, attention needs to be given to how to safeguard property and lives, given that as many as half of South Africans do not have a strategy to deal with loss, and there are no insurance products that cater for citizens just for when they are away.
The guidelines from insurers are applicable to everyone. The top preventative measures insurers expect their clients to take while they are away begin with making sure that all insurance policies are up to date — property, motor, life, travel and disability — and that there are sufficient funds to cover the month-end debit orders.
Christelle Colman, Old Mutual Insure insurance expert, comments: “Over the festive period you are more at risk of home burglaries, making it important that you review your buildings and contents sum insured prior to going on holiday, to ensure you are adequately covered in the event of a loss. Read your insurance policies and understand the implications with regards to driver restrictions, policy conditions and excesses applicable in the event of a claim.
“In addition to more cars being on the roads, people often tend to deviate from their normal road usage patterns at this time of year, which can lead to an increase in accidents. During the Christmas period, there is a rise in the level of drunk driving as well as speeding and generally more erratic driving, making it crucial to take extra care and precaution during this period.
“We urge our clients to never drink and drive or take narcotics. Not only are you at risk of finding yourself behind bars over the festive season, but if involved in an accident while under the influence your claim may be rejected and you may be refused cover in the future — not to mention the possible loss of lives.”
Colman says it is vital to ensure that your vehicle has been serviced, window wipers and worn tyres replaced and that a check on the brake pads is carried out prior to hitting the road. This is both savvy to prevent accidents and to prevent rejection of a motor vehicle claim because your car was not roadworthy.
Another factor often overlooked is meeting the parking requirements of your policy. Some insurers may accept off-street parking, but others stipulate that the vehicle must be kept behind an automatic or locked garage door.
Christelle Coleman from Old Mutual Insure
Cautions Colman: “When a motor insurance policy stipulates that cover is only provided for a specific driver, an insurance claim will only be successful if this driver was behind the wheel at the time of the incident. If other people will be driving the vehicle from time to time it is important to check what the implications of this are for the policy.
“We also strongly recommend that our clients ensure their home alarm system is serviced, including the back-up battery, and that it is set and working when they leave to go on vacation.
“Very important is not disclosing exact whereabouts on social media platforms by refraining from posting too much personal information online and turning off your location services on the various platforms. Sophisticated criminals use social media to track individuals’ behaviour and then target specific homes.
“We urge clients to check with their insurer if they have the correct insurance in place if they rent out their home on letting platforms like AirBnB over the festive season. There are a number of exclusions by most insurers relating to this change in risk that you should be aware of.”
Have emergency numbers saved in your cellphone and backed up elsewhere, including the contact centres provided by your insurance company. The bottom line is that safety and security is every citizen’s responsibility. Even the smallest precautions can have far-reaching implications.