Vandalism

Vandalism is willful or malicious behavior that causes someone else’s property to be altered, defaced, or destroyed.
Closeup of a man's hand holding a can of spray paint against a wall with graffiti

Vandalism Definition

When someone deliberately damages your property, that person has committed an act of vandalism. That’s true whether the vandal has deface your home, another structure on your property, or one of your personal belongings.

Every state has its own vandalism definition, but the definition generally requires three parts:

  • Physical damage. The physical property damage vandalism causes doesn’t have to be huge or even permanent.
  • Someone else’s property. While the damaged property can be private or public, it has to be owned by someone other than the person doing the damage.
  • Intentionality. Vandalism can only happen on purpose. Even if someone causes physical damage to your home, they are only vandals if they intended to destroy or deface it.

Vandalism can be frustrating for homeowners. Imagine going on vacation and coming back to find graffiti on your garage door. That might seem like a small nuisance, but vandalism can feel both senseless and personal when it happens to you. Plus, you need to get it removed quickly, and in some places, that can cost anywhere from $1 to $3.50 per square foot.

Examples of Vandalism

Vandalism comes in many forms. In addition to graffiti, some common examples include:

  • Smashing mailboxes.
  • Cutting down shrubs.
  • Breaking windows.
  • Egging or toilet papering the property. While this may seem harmless in many ways, it does require a lot of clean-up and can require hiring someone to take care of it.
  • Carving initials into wood fences or trees.

Is Vandalism Covered By Insurance?

Vandalism is a peril that most homeowners insurance policies cover. In fact, even named peril coverage forms, like an HO2 policy, usually mention vandalism as a covered event. This means home insurance covers most acts of vandalism. The amount of coverage does depend on your insurance company’s limit of liability and your deductible.

For example, let’s say you do come home to graffiti on your garage door, so you hire someone to remove it and file a claim with your insurer. The bill from the removal company is $1,000, but your deductible is $500. That’s the amount you’re responsible for, and your insurance company pays the remaining $500.

When Is Vandalism Not Covered By Insurance?

While vandalism is a covered peril, it isn’t always covered by home insurance. Many homeowners policies don’t cover vandalism if your home is vacant for a certain length of time, typically around 30 to 60 days; others may cover it, but usually only when you’ve notified your insurance provider that you’re leaving it vacant.

Insurance companies also only pay claims on property you’re responsible for. For homeowners, that means your home and possessions. (This doesn’t include your car ﹘ your auto insurance policy will most likely respond to that.) Similarly, condo insurance only pays vandalism claims if the condo owner’s unit and property are involved. Damage to shared areas (e.g., elevators and hallways) is typically handled by the condominium’s master policy.

One more note: your home insurance policy most likely extends coverage to direct family members living at your residence. These people are insureds, and the damage they cause is not considered vandalism, even when it’s intentional.

What to Do If Your Home Is Vandalized

Finding your home vandalized is upsetting, but it’s important to take action immediately. The following steps can help when it’s time to file a claim:

  • Call the police. Even if the damage appears minor, you want to call the police and file a report. The damage may be more costly than you assume, and a police police report can be a big help in an insurance claim.
  • Record your damage. Pictures and videos can be used as evidence in your claim and if the police actually catch the vandals.
  • Protect your home. Once you have evidence of the event, you want to minimize your exposure to more damage. This may mean boarding up windows or sweeping away glass. However, hold off on repairs until your insurance adjuster arrives.
  • Call your insurance company. Again, you want to do this even if the damage appears insignificant. Most home insurance policies require you to report incidents even if you don’t plan on filing a claim.

When you contact your insurer, make sure you have your policy number, police report, and any other evidence on hand.

How to Deter Vandalism

While vandals can attack any home, you can reduce your chances of getting vandalized with some simple actions. For example, you don’t leave your home vacant for extended periods. If you go on vacation, make sure to have someone stop by and check on your house. You can also have your mail and newspaper delivery stopped temporarily or ask a trusted neighbor to pick them up. Vandals are less likely to target homes with people in them or regular activity happening on the property.

Another good option is to Install security cameras and make sure to light the exterior of your home. Motion sensor lights can be a great deterrent to vandals who don’t want to be seen or caught on camera doing the mischief. Not only will this help deter vandals, but it can also help reduce your home insurance costs with discounts.

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