What to do after a burglary

The aftermath of a burglary can leave you shocked and upset. But knowing what to do immediately after a break-in can help you get through the practicalities as smoothly as possible.

Woman in house after burglary

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The first thing to do is to calm down and then take the following action if your home is burgled.

Should I call the police if I am burgled?

You should report the crime to the police as soon as you can. But how you report your burglary to the police will depend on the circumstances.

If you think the burglar is still in your home or nearby, call 999 (if you have hearing or speech issues, a text phone is available on 18000). If available, officers will attend straight away – some show up reassuringly quickly.

If you’re sure the burglar has left your home and you’re not in danger, call the non-emergency number 101 (or text phone 18001 101). Calling 101 doesn’t mean your burglary isn’t important – but it will help police allocate resources appropriately. 

Some police forces also provide online forms for reporting a crime. So if it is minor and you have internet access check that out first.

How will the police investigate my burglary?

Police officers should attend your property after a burglary. Don’t touch anything until they say you can. Officers will want to see your home as the burglar left it – this will help with their investigation.

If there is any forensic evidence, such as fingerprints or footprints, a crimes scene investigator will be called. They will use various scientific methods to try and identify the perpetrator. For example, any fingerprints found will be run against the police national database of known offenders.

Other police action might include house to house enquiries, and reviewing footage from CCTV or smart home security systems. If clear images are found, they will be shared within the police force and sometimes with the press.

Tell the police anything that might increase the chances of finding your property such as DNA marking, photos, or tracking apps on stolen smartphones.

Give a statement

Police officers will take a witness statement from you. This will include details of what happened and what was stolen, and could be used later in court.

You’ll be given a crime reference number – you’ll need this to keep track of the police investigation and make an insurance claim.

The investigation will then be handed over to the police force’s burglary unit. The police should keep you informed about how your case is progressing, for example if a suspect is charged or the case is dropped due to a lack of evidence. They will give you a number to call to get updates.

Officers at the scene can advise you on how to make your home more secure. They will also ask you if you are happy for your details to be passed to Victim Support. This is a charity that offers both emotional and practical support to victims of crime – they will contact you and see what help you need.

How do I make an insurance claim after a burglary?

Call the claims number on your home insurance policy documents as soon as you can. You will need to explain exactly what happened and provide the insurer with the crime number for a claim to be opened.

Go through each room, take photos, and note down everything missing or damaged. You’ll need this information to make a claim, either online or via a claims assessor, or loss adjuster, who visits your home.

You may need to provide evidence to prove you own certain items and their value. Evidence might include receipts, serial numbers or bank statements showing the purchase.

Dealing with specific stolen items

Stolen ID, such as your passport or driving licence, should be included in your report to the insurer. You should also contact the passport office and/or DVLA to report stolen documents and to get a replacement.

If your house keys have been stolen, it’s a good idea to change your locks in case the burglar comes back. If your car keys are missing, a garage can reprogram electronic locks to a new code.

Any stolen credit or debit cards should be reported to your bank, which can stop them and issue replacements. Lost mobile phones should be reported to the network so the account can be blocked.

Damage to your home

Your buildings insurance should cover damage to the fabric of your home such as broken locks or smashed windows. You may have a joint buildings and contents policy, or separate policies. If you rent or are a leaseholder, buildings insurance will be your landlord’s responsibility.

Make sure you get windows and doors secured straight away – this will help you feel secure in your home. This work may be covered by your home insurance or add-on home emergency cover.

Replacing items

When your insurer has processed your claim, it will let you know how items will be replaced. Most policies include “new for old” cover, which will meet the full cost of replacing stolen or damaged items. So, if your two-year-old TV is stolen, you’ll get a brand new TV.

A small number of policies offer “indemnity” or wear and tear cover. The type of policy takes an item’s use and damage into account, so pay-outs will be lower.

How the insurer will pay you

How a particular insurer handles claim pay-outs will be in the policy booklet you received when you bought the policy. Your insurer may settle your claim in one of several ways:

  • A cash payment the same as the replacement value of the items
  • A replacement which the insurer will arrange for you
  • An insurance voucher or prepaid card up to a certain value to be used at specified supplier
  • A cash payment equivalent to the cost that the insurer would pay their preferred supplier for a replacement

What to do if you have a complaint

If you don’t agree with how much your insurer is willing to pay, or the method of payment, you can make a complaint. If you can’t reach an agreement with the insurer, you have six months from deadlock in which to ask the Financial Ombudsman Service to investigate.

The Ombudsman will consider whether your insurer has acted reasonably and within the law and, if not, tell the insurer what it must do to put things right.

How to increase your chances of a smooth insurance claim for burglary

When you apply for insurance, make sure the information you give is as accurate as possible. Don’t underestimate the value of your possessions, and make sure you list any items worth in excess of your insurer’s “single article limit”.

Keep receipts for major purchases and take photos of high value items. If you store these documents in the cloud, rather than on a single device, you’ll still be able to access them if your phone or laptop is stolen.

Read the small print to make sure you don’t accidentally invalidate your policy. Clauses to watch out for include those about:

  • Installing certain types of locks on doors and windows
  • Leaving the property unoccupied for long periods (the limit is usually 30 or 60 days)
  • Any requirement to report theft to police within a set time-frame
  • Being “negligent” such as leaving windows open when you go out, or posting details of your holiday plans on social media.
  • Informing the insurer about any changes to your household such as a lodger moving in
  • Accidentally over-inflating items’ values when making a claim
  • Not informing the insurer about home renovations
  • Delays in making a claim

Get support

There’s no shame in asking for help if you feel distressed after being burgled. Even if very little has been stolen, the thought of a stranger in your home can feel like a personal violation. Talk about your feelings to a trusted friend or contact Victim Support

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