What to Do After a Break In: 7 Essential Steps for Protection and Recovery
Photo by Jonathan Petersson
Burglaries are a huge problem for homeowners. In fact, about 134,066 homeowners had to deal with a burglary in 2017 and that number shows no signs of decreasing.
Break-ins can be stressful and terrifying. Your space no longer feels safe and you’re faced with never knowing when someone else might try to break into your home.
Knowing what to do after a break-in is the best way to speed up your recovery and helps you get life back to normal as fast as possible. Here are a few key steps to make the process as simple as possible.
1. Call the Authorities
The most important thing you need to worry about after a break-in is getting yourself and your loved ones to a safe place. This means getting out of your house and going to a neighbor’s home or driving down the street and staying inside your locked vehicle.
If you go into your home, you have no guarantee that the person who broke into the house isn’t still lurking inside. If they are in your house, they could get violent.
Often, if thieves and vandals think they can get away with their crime, they’ll leave the property peacefully. If they feel threatened or think that someone could recognize them in a line-up at the police station, they’re more likely to react violently.
Find a safe place away from the house and call the police. Let them know what happened and wait for them to arrive at your home before you head inside.
Once They Arrive
They’ll sweep the house and make sure no one is hiding in a room and can guarantee that the property is safe before you set foot inside.
Once they’re sure the house is safe, do your best to answer their questions. Let them know what you saw, point out any items that you can immediately identify as missing or damaged and be willing to follow up with them over the next few weeks.
The police will file the incident report and can then start looking for the thief responsible for the damage. This report will also come in handy for
2. Do a Thorough Inventory of Your House
It’s important to let the police know about what’s missing from your house. While you might notice the larger items like TVs, computers, jewelry, or artwork, you might not notice other items immediately. Take the time to go through your house and do a full inventory of your property.
Leave no room untouched.
Go through every cabinet and drawer in the kitchen. Check each closet and any hiding places you have for valuables. Make a note of anything that’s missing, no matter how small it may seem. Make a note of any locks that need replacing with higher quality models.
Once you have a full picture of everything that got stolen from your home, let the police know about those items. You’ll also want to use this list when you file a claim with your insurance company.
Inventory Damage, Too
Once you have an idea of which items are missing from your home, you’ll also want to make a note of the damage that happened to the property. It doesn’t matter how insignificant it might seem. Document it as thoroughly as you can.
Take pictures of everything that’s out of place, broken, or even scratched. Take multiple pictures from different angles if you can and use the home’s overhead lights to make sure all issues get captured in the picture.
You’ll want those images when you file a claim with your homeowners’ insurance provider. The more documentation you have and the more damage you can prove, the easier it will be to get the money you deserve.
3. File a Claim with Your Homeowners Insurance Policy
Once the police report gets filed, you’ll want to file a claim with your homeowners’ insurance provider. This will help you get the money you need to repair any damage and replace the items that got stolen in the first place.
Call your insurance agent as soon as you can and let them guide you through the process.
You’ll want to give them as much information as you can. Send them copies of the pictures you took and pass the police report onto them as well. This will speed up the claims process and helps you get your money faster.
If you have any receipts for the items that got stolen, send them copies of those receipts. The more documentation you can provide, the more money you’ll be able to get for the items that are missing or damaged.
Remember, the amount of money you get will largely depends on how much information you can give your insurance company. If you can prove that you paid a certain amount for an item or that a specific valuable got damaged in the break-in, you’ll stand a better chance.
4. Clean Up the Property the Right Way
When you’re dealing with the aftermath of a break-in, it’s tempting to get started with the cleanup as soon as you can. Before you grab a broom or call a repair technician, take a step back. You need to clean up the right way.
If you have damaged items, don’t throw them away. Take pictures and hold onto them until you get the settlement from the insurance company. If you have the items on-hand, you’ll be able to dispute the settlement more easily.
Remember, insurance companies actively work to minimize the amount of money you receive. It’s how they continue to be as profitable as possible. If you can prove that the damage is more extensive than they claim, you’ll get more money back with your claim.
If you can, hold onto those items until everything gets resolved. Separate those damaged items from the general mess and keep them contained until the claim gets closed. Once you’re done, you’re ready to start cleaning the rest of your home.
Stay Safe at All Times
Unfortunately, break-ins often mean there are a lot of sharp shards of glass and materials lying around your house. These materials require extra care and attention to reduce your risk of injury.
Use rubber or leather gloves anytime you’re handling broken glass. Make sure to sweep up all shards into a double-bagged trashcan to reduce the risk of shards spreading. If you have a vacuum, vacuum the floor after you sweep to get rid of those almost-invisible shards on your floor.
Wash your clothes, linens, and soft items that might have gotten messed with during the break-in. If there’s anything you’re not sure about, go ahead and clean it thoroughly. Cleaning can be therapeutic and getting rid of signs of the crime can make you feel better and safer in your home.
If you’re worried about the size of the mess, you can always hire a professional cleaning crew to take care of the cleanup. Pros will be able to take care of dirty floors and can restore your home to its former condition in a matter of hours.
5. Get the Damage Fixed
Your insurance company will send out an insurance adjuster to figure out how much they should pay you when you file a claim. This adjuster works for the insurance company and should, in theory, give you a fair amount of money to replace your broken or missing items.
Keep in mind that this amount will depend on your policy’s limits. If the damage gets valued at more than your policy covers, you’ll have to pay for the remaining amount with your personal savings.
Once the adjuster gives you an estimate for the cost of repairs, don’t cash the check from your insurance company. Instead, get a second opinion and contact your trusted contractor for all repairs.
They’ll be able to inspect the damage and figure out how much it will really cost to repair things completely. If their estimate is significantly higher than what the insurance adjuster suggested, you’ll need to dispute the claim.
You Can Work with Anyone
Your insurance company will happily recommend certain contractors and repair experts. These companies are ones they know will work with their appraisals. Unfortunately, you have no way of guaranteeing that those contractors are trustworthy or reputable.
Though your insurance company may not want to admit it, you’re able to work with any contractor you want to. This is true no matter what type of homeowners insurance you have or who the provider is.
Get a second opinion from someone you trust before you cash that check. If your contractor can beat the estimate provided by your insurance provider, great. If not, you’ll want to contact your agent and discuss your concerns.
Most reputable insurance companies will listen to your contractor’s estimate and will often increase the settlement amount based on their estimates. Once you’re satisfied with the insurance company’s settlement, you’re ready to schedule those repairs.
Remember, once you cash the insurance check, you accept the company’s settlement amount. If you’re even slightly worried about the amount they offer, don’t cash the check until you get a second opinion. Otherwise, you could end up paying more for repairs out of your personal savings.
6. Invest in a Security System
Security systems are one of the best ways to reduce your risk of unwanted intruders in your home. If you have one and you’re still dealing with the effects of a break-in, contact your company and discuss your concerns.
They may be able to find a better fit for your needs without increasing your existing bill. If you don’t have a security system installed at your home, you’ll need to find one that fits your needs.
After a break-in, it’s tempting to go all-out, but you may not need to. Remember, overreacting doesn’t mean you’re increasing the effectiveness of your security system. You need to choose a system that works for your property.
What to Look For
Before you select a security system, you’ll want to think about the types of features your home needs.
If you’re worried about capturing intruders’ faces, a security camera may be a great choice. If you’re looking for a loud alarm to scare intruders away, a traditional monitored alarm system is in your best interest.
Ultimately, you want to choose a security system that handles all the areas you’re worried about. At a bare minimum, choose one that secures your doors and windows and can send you (and the authorities) a notification if anyone breaks the windows.
Believe it or not, 23 percent of burglars enter a home through the windows! The important thing is notifying both yourself and the authorities as soon as something happens at home. This way, your home will have the right protection against future incidents.
7. Get Your Locks Replaced
Unfortunately, many break-ins happen because the locks on your doors aren’t as strong as you’d like. Worse, those locks could be pickable or have spare keys you’re not aware of.
After any break-in, it’s always a good idea to get your locks replaced.
Install high-quality deadbolts on all exterior doors. This will make it harder for any vandals or burglars to break into your home.
If you have sliding glass doors, upgrade the locks on those doors. Make sure your locksmith also looks at the locking mechanisms on your windows. The last thing you want to do is leave a single entrance vulnerable to break-ins.
If you’re not sure what needs improvement, just ask. Your locksmith will be able to put together a plan to improve security around your home.
Knowing What to Do After a Break-In Is Key
No one wants to feel that their home is unsafe. Knowing what to do after a break-in is the best way to help you continue feeling safe in your home while also improving the security of your space.
These simple tips should help you keep your home safer after a break-in.
If you’re looking for a way to improve security at your home immediately, don’t wait. Contact us and let our team help you improve the locks and security around your house now.