Can I insure my household things against robbery?

To start with, a definition of terms. When someone breaks a window to get into your house to cart away your stereo system, that’s robbery. When your maid walks out of the house bringing with her your microwave oven, that’s theft. When someone pulls a gun on you to get your diamond ring, that’s robbery. When someone picks up the diamond ring that you left on top of a dresser in the ladies’ room, that’s theft.  Of course, there are grey areas but, as a rule, whenever force is used, either on a person or a thing, that’s robbery. Without force, that’s theft.

You can insure against robbery, but not against theft. Also, you cannot buy a policy against robbery only. You have to buy a fire policy, or one of those comprehensive homeowner’s policies, and expand it to include robbery. If you already have a fire insurance policy on your household things, then you can ask to have robbery included in it, at an additional premium, naturally.

Robbery insurance, as an extension of a fire policy, does not include jewelry or cash. There are other policies specially designed for these items.

One way to insure against robbery is to pick out your most valuable and “stealable” items, such as the stereo, TV, Betamax, and cover each item at specific amounts. This keeps your premium down, while covering each item at full value, but you carry the risk of losing an item you have not included in the list.

The other way is to pay robbery premium on the lump sum insured on all your household contents. But the insurance company puts a cap on the claim on any one item, say, five percent of the total sum insured. All items are covered against robbery, but the maximum limit set for the loss of any one item may not be enough to pay for your loss, if the robbers happen to pick your most valuable piece.

Either way, the insurance company will not give full coverage. One company may apply a deductible; that is, a fixed amount, say P1,000, will be deducted from each and every loss. Another company may specify that it will pay only eighty percent of each and every loss. In theory, the companies believe that, since the insured will always bear part of any loss, he will probably be more protective of his property.

Robbery insurance is expensive, but it is wise to have it, even in a limited way.

Companies do not fight over robbery insurance as they do over prime business such as fire insurance. There is no dog-eat-dog competition in robbery insurance. It is an accommodation line, a product that is kept in stock but is not advertised at all, something that companies grudgingly provide their most valued clients whom they cannot afford to refuse or antagonize. In fact, most companies stay out of the robbery business completely.

Companies that are in robbery insurance, conduct business in the most careful way. There are certain areas in Metro Manila where companies simply refuse to issue robbery insurance. In places where they do provide the cover, a thorough inspection of the owner’s premise is almost always required.

The way the companies conduct robbery insurance business is a sad but true commentary on the times we live in.


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