Following a spate of break-ins and robberies, Canberra business owners are being urged to take a close look at their insurance policies during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
With many shops and offices left vacant, the insurance risk to business has increased, with the possibility of more break-ins, damage to property, and failing freezers or power outages leading to spoilage of stock.
Allinsure managing director Peter Chamberlain says recent robberies in the Fyshwick area have highlighted the need for all businesses, including shop owners, tradies and services such as gyms, to carry out an insurance health check.
Peter says the recent break-ins came as no surprise after Canberra saw a spate of burglaries, particularly in the Fyshwick area, where the Harry Potter-themed store Quizzic Alley was ram-raided along with a number of other local businesses during the first wave of lockdowns in 2020.
“There’s a heightened risk of break-ins and theft happening again the longer we are in lockdown with shops, offices and construction sites being prime targets,” he said.
Peter says with many shops and offices unattended by owners and staff day-to-day, there’s also the risk that businesses could be unknowingly damaged by wind or rain.
“If people are working from home, they might not realise there has been damage to their business or stock during a storm or power outage,” he says.
With many business owners either not working, or working from home, Peter says it’s the ideal opportunity to take a look at their insurance policies, and to understand the wording, clauses and timeframes for cover.
Most insurance policies have an unoccupied business premises clause that can exclude cover if the owners are not onsite for a certain amount of time – typically from one to three months.
Peter says a lot of direct policies with insurance companies have a shorter timeframe so it’s important for businesses to read their policy so they know where they stand, and to seek an extension if required.
Working from home also means many business owners and staff are taking items such as laptops with them, and there is also a timeframe on insurance cover for items or stock that is taken off the business premises – usually 30 days.
“People need to contact their brokers or insurers to find out what the timeframes are and seek extensions for contents being used offsite, as well as unoccupied premises cover,” says Peter.
“Extensions won’t happen automatically; people need to ask for them. Allinsure’s insurer partners are being very accommodating on these requirements, typically extending the policy benefits free of charge.
“And if their insurer doesn’t come to the party during this difficult time, they really need to be looking somewhere else for cover.”
Lockdown offers business owners a chance to take the time to look at where they can make some premium savings and have a specialist broker review their policies or seek a second opinion to make sure all risks are covered.
Peter says he has taken advantage of the downtime to review his own business and personal insurance policies, as well as comparing utility and internet providers, and even where he buys his stationery.
“What a perfect time to stop and go through your profit-and-loss statement to see where you can make savings and where you can make improvements,” he says.
Peter has made a conscious decision to use locally owned and operated businesses that provide the same service on competitive terms, instead of using national companies.
“COVID-19 has really highlighted that in times of need we’ve got to support our local businesses,” he says.
“When times are hard, these are the people who come to support you, help our community and our sporting groups and local charities.
“Many Canberra businesses are really hurting during these lockdowns.”
The operators of small businesses, such as cafes, gyms, beauticians and tradespeople, who are not working at all can also seek assistance from their insurers if they’re having trouble paying their premiums due to a drop in income.
“They should contact their insurer or broker and request deferred payments or a payment plan,” says Peter.