Does Your Homeowner or Business Insurance Policy Require that You Maintain a Burglary System?

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

While insurance policies vary depending on the insurer and type of insurance, many have requirements that the property owners take certain precautionary safety measures to mitigate the extent of damage from a possible future incident.  Not only can this lower the cost of the claim for the insurance company, but certain safety measures may serve as evidence of the actual loss that has occurred and how it happened. A burglary alarm is a prime example of this. Loss resulting from theft is often difficult to prove and circumstantial evidence used to prove the occurrence of such event must be more than just speculative (AM JUR Insurance § 2023). A burglary alarm can serve as physical evidence that an intrusion has occurred making it more likely to link a home or business loss of property or damage to the burglary.

While a burglary alarm may be helpful in proving your claim, it is not optional for many insurance policies. Reading the content of your policy’s contractual language can help you find out what is required of you regarding precautionary measures. For example, it is quite common for an insurance company to require a burglary alarm system that is regularly maintained and meets certain standards that may vary depending on whether your property is used for residential or business purposes. Few insurers are lenient and only require absence of the property to prove theft. This is why it is important you understand which of the previous categories your insurance company falls into.

The scope of this requirement must also be considered. Some policies require partial systems covering only a certain specified area or may require strict compliance to recover anything whatsoever from an insurance claim. The level of coverage you receive for your claim could be dependent on the level of maintenance and sophistication of your alarm system. Maintenance is importance because the length of time it takes to repair or update your system could be a major factor in the level of mitigation of your damages. Faulty alarm systems or wiring missing from key areas where valuables are stored will be taken into account.  The time of day that the system is operational such as after the closing of a business will also be considered.

Beyond mere maintenance, some insurers will require notification of the suspension or repair of a faulty alarm system. Therefore, it is important to check your system regularly and contact the appropriate representative to make them aware of the problem and length of time it will take to correct. Inspections or investigations into whether the insured has complied with such requirements could be the difference in the amount of coverage received if any at all. Strict compliance is often the standard so you should not take these requirements lightly or assume they are mere suggestions. Strict compliance usually means that any discrepancy with the standard set forth in your insurance policy will lead to the denial of your claim to compensation.

If your claim is denied for not meeting a certain standard required by your insurer you may be able to dispute the denial if the language within your policy is ambiguous. Ideally your policy will set out clear specifications, but this is not always the case and can lead to problematic disputes that are contingent on legal terminology or common business practice. Whether the failure to have an alarm system is a material breach will also depend on the intricacies of your contract. In some circumstances, if it is material, it may bar coverage of your entire loss. Other policies may only deduct from the overall amount of your claim for failure to maintain an alarm system that is up to the contractual standard.

Another aspect to be aware of is whether your insurer waived a provision or requirement and how that effects the enforcement of your claim to compensation. Waiver of an alarm provision may allow you to recover even in circumstances where your alarm system was outdated or wired improperly. An experienced insurance claims attorney can help you analyze legal language that may be difficult to comprehend so you can have a better understanding of your insurance policy and prevent your insurer from taking advantage of your confusion.

You may also be able to shift liability to an alarm system company for the losses incurred in a burglary if they improperly installed the alarm or provided defective equipment making it useless despite a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or merchantability. Liability could be established if error was the clear proximate cause of the theft or destruction of your property. Having your property protected by an alarm system can also lead to benefits other than protection of your property depending on your insurer. An example of this would be a rebate on your premium for having excellent safety precautions for your business or home that goes above and beyond of what is required. It is important to make sure your alarm system is up to date with the requirements of your insurance policy so you can recover compensation for your losses and an experienced insurance claims attorney can help you understand the often complicated and confusing language that is found in insurance policies.

You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at[email protected].

Sources: 42 A.L.R.2d 733

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