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Caravan insurance - no cover fears prompt camper, pop-top checks

February 28, 2006
Caravan insurance - no cover fears prompt camper, pop-top checks

Camper and pop-top caravan owners throughout Australia may not have insurance cover if their Recreational Vehicle becomes the target of thieves.

Editors Note: GoSee policy is to retain the dates stories are written unless the item has to be completely replaced. Please  keep this in mind when evaluating information provided. While  accurate at the time of writing information could change over time. In this case the matter of forced entry is due for review and is  now the subject of editorial research to refresh that information. Stories are rarely deleted from the free GoSee library as user figures show general information is valued.

GoSeeAustralia has been told a recent theft from a camper which involved a Dubbo Caravan Park raises an immediate need for camper and caravan pop-top owners to review their insurance policies.

Concerns are now being expressed by many owners of campers and pop-top caravans about whether their policy protects them when valuables are stolen from their "soft-target" recreational vehicles.

This is the direct result of a recent theft involving a Dubbo caravan park.
The McMahons with their Jayco Swan at Swan HillIn that case the insurer is said to have declined to pay on grounds which are said to be that the camper was not "broken into" as access was gained through the Velcro and there was no forced entry.

These concerns now extend to pop-top caravans. Again GSA has learned that a caravanner has been told that his policy does not protect him even if a knife is used to gain entry.

 

Editor’s note: GSA invited 12 insurers, brokers and agents who service the caravan market in Australia to comment on these concerns on Friday, February 24. GSA also asked for comment on another caravan insurance concern which relates to getting insurance cover for the increasing number of caravanners and Recreational Vehicle owners who have no fixed address as many more Australians take to life on the road with no fixed abode.
Here are some of the responses GoSeeAustralia has received to date. We have been told by some of the insurers that they will respond once our request for information has been fully evaluated and a reply prepared through their normal internal processes for media requests of this kind.
We will post them to this feature as we get them. 
 
Peace of mindInsurance Broker Roy Marshall of Grampians Insurance Brokers, Ararat, Victoria
told GoSeeAustralia that -

  • Policies vary;
  •  the wording is generally easier to understand nowadays and is quite clear;
  • theft is generally not covered under a caravan insurance policy when it happens from an open air annex or tent;
  • the definition of a caravan would include a pop top or camper trailer;
  • forceful entry would be considered cutting/breaking in with the use of a knife - same as if you were fat and had to squeeze in through a small gap - that would be forceful entry and should be covered;
  •  brokers act on behalf of their customers to get the most suitable cover from various Underwriters so the result is usually better for the client.

Roy Marshall said the best advice he can give to anyone travelling is to upgrade their householders Contents Policy to include cover on their contents anywhere in Australia.

"It is sometimes called Blue Ribbon Cover, Premium Cover. This generally costs about $100 extra for the stuff you take away with you", he said.

Geoff O'Sullivan of Caravanners Complete Insurance in Shepparton, Victoria, specialises in packages of insurance for caravanners and this includes a policy for motor vehicle, caravan, and trailers.  Geoff O’Sullivan told GoSeeAustralia - "there are also specific issues" regarding insurance cover for those with No Fixed Address, which need consideration if you are on the road.
He said he found that often clients did not understand the full implications and potential exclusions in their insurance policies. 

“I think the best thing for people who are on the road and still own their home is to extend household cover on an Australia wide basis”, he said.
"The full implications of Personal Liability for people who do not have a fixed address is something we find is often not understood by the full-time traveller.
“If their home has been sold their personal liability cover which is linked to their household insurance is gone. They may not realise this”, he said.
 
“We have extensive experience with the insurance needs of people in caravans and this has led us to create a policy which meets their unique needs while they are on the road”, Geoff O’Sullivan said.
“I think we are the only ones who offer Caravanners Complete Insurance”, he told GoSeeAustralia.
He said while the policy might cost the full time traveller more it included the potential theft of valuable items like lap tops and addressed the needs of people on the road with no fixed abode.
 
This extended to towing advice and assistance with situations which can develop through illness. An example would be the case of a wife with little or no towing experience being given personal assistance and advice if her husband became ill.
“It might mean bringing out a family member to take over the towing role, I have been developing this scheme since 1996 and there are about 1200 caravanners in it already, Geoff O’Sullivan said. 

Pop top at peace in Qld. Is a knife forced entryNick Lethbridge, Acquisitions and Retention Advisor with GIO Motor Insurance said in response to the two scenarios presented to insurers, brokers and agents by GoSeeAustralia that –

GSA:
What happens in the case of and insurer who is said to have declined to pay on the grounds which are said to be that the camper was not "broken into" as access was gained through the Velcro and there was no forced entry?

"Under our current Product Disclosure Statement, We would deny this claim as there was no evidence of forced entry", Nick Lethbridge said.

GSA: With pop-top caravans. GoSeeAustralia has been told that a caravanner has been told that his policy does not protect him even if a knife is used to gain entry?

Jayco Dove. Is it a soft target "Under our current Product Disclosure Statement, we would accept this claim if we were satisfied that forcible entry had occurred", he said.

He says GIO provides automatic contents cover up to $500.

"We cover you for loss of or damage to your contents in your caravan or annex caused by an event except for loss or damage:

- "as a result of theft, attempted theft or malicious damage unless there has been forcible or violent entry to your locked caravan or its fully enclosed annex" or

- "to contents in an annex as a result of wind, flood or storm or

- "if items are misplaced or accidentally broken unless the breakage occurs in an event which damages your caravan and we cover this damage. Your level of cover can be increased to more than $500.

(Editor’s note See page 22 of GIO’s Product Disclosure Statement for full details.)

The full PDS can be located at: gio.com.au/motorvehicle/comprehensivecover.

Coromal Silhouette camperCaravan cover details can be found on pages 21 and 22.

In response to the same scenarios Bruce Illingworth, National Manager CIL Insurances Vero told GoSeeAustralia that the CIL caravan policy requires that there be physical evidence of forcible and violent entry and must be from a caravan or annex that has hard walls and is securely locked at the time of loss.
In regard to a camper trailer, when it is in the up position, contents would only be covered for burglary when in a lockable boot or lockable hardwalled compartment”, he said.
 
In the case of a pop-top, CIL will pay for any damage caused in breaking into the pop-top and cover any stolen contents up to the contents sum insured. This includes cover for damage to the vinyl beneath the roofline or stolen contents as a result of entry through the vinyl section”.
 
“The policy covers malicious damage, including damage whilst breaking into the caravan or annex. The CIL policy has an automatic $1,000 contents cover which can be increased upon request”, Bruce Illingworth said. On the subject of "No Fixed Address" Bruce Illingworth told GoSeeAustralia they offer insurance to anyone providing they have a postal address that renewals can be sent to. This can be through a PO Box, or a relative. There are also Mail Forwarding agencies, one of which advertises on the GoSeeAustralia website.

A caravanner from Lake Macquarie, NSW, who is insured with CIL told GoSeeAustralia that he contacted CIL/Vero Insurance on the issue of hard walls in a 2005 16.52-1 Pop Top caravan. He raised the issue of hard walls and the Pop Top caravan question. He was told that items are covered in the caravan with the Pop Top in the "up" position, but, items in the annex are not covered.
"As I see it, cutting the vinyl Pop Top skirt with a knife, is the same as gaining access via the door with a sledge hammer. An act of 'forced entry' either way, and would stand up in to a legal challenge", he said.

"I have just arrived home from meeting with CIL in Sydney. I raised the issue of 'Caravan Hard Walls' with Bill Torney, Claims Team Leader", he said. (Bill is from CIL's Melbourne Head Office).

"Pop-top vans are classified the same as full vans. If the pop-top is in the up position, the door closed and locked, gaining entry by means of cutting the pop-top vinyl, with a knife, is classified as a break-in/forced entry. Insurance cover for stolen items would apply, to the value of the insured policy cover for contents. The pop-top skirt would be repaired under the insurance policy as well".

"Items in the annex are not covered, but, if the annex itself was damaged, i.e: entry was via wall cut with a knife, the annex wall would be repaired under the policy".

"I hope this helps in clearing up this 'grey area', and I also mentioned that CIL are giving misinformation to their customers, as CIL's response to the same question varies, depending on who you talk to. He (Bill Torney's) comment was, to always get a name, which of course I did, but many on the "Jayco Forum" did not" he said. 

He says it makes sense to have a small 'safe' mounted in caravans. A good sized one, with a key lock for can be purchased for $38, he said.

Another pop-top owner insured with CIL asked if he put a lock on one of the drawers or wardrobe doors would valuables be covered in case of theft. The answer was no, as it is still classed as a soft option.

A pop-top owner insured with CIL who owns a Freedom Pop Top rang CIL to be told that if a thief uses a knife to gain entry through the vinyl in the pop top - "you are not covered as it isn't classed as forcible entry.
I can’t believe they don’t class a knife as forcible," he said. He said RACV had been "very helpful" in giving him a quote and also "got in touch with the claims department". "They cover stolen goods from your caravan no matter how they were taken as long as it was from inside the caravan", he said

Windsor on the trail with the pop top locked comes up insuredChristine Elmer, AAMI’s National Public Relations Manager says for AAMI caravan insurance policyholders, AAMI provides cover for accidental loss or damage (including theft) of specific contents items while they are within the caravan.

"They are: kitchen and cooking utensils, personal clothing, bedding, furniture and furnishings, cutlery and crockery, microwave, non-portable vision and sound equipment, camping and sporting equipment", she told GoSeeAustralia. (See page 13 of AAMI Caravan Insurance Policy and Product Disclosure Statement booklet). It should be noted that the cover is limited she said: AAMI will pay up to $100 per item up to $500 in total for any one claim.

Christine says AAMI's caravan insurance policy is available on their Web site, check http://www.aami.com.au/products/carinsuranceaustralia/caravaninsuranceaustralia.asp

"If the owner also has an AAMI Home Contents Insurance Policy, they may like to consider also purchasing personal valuables cover, which extends their cover for contents used outside the home", she said -- refer to: http://www.aami.com.au/products/homeinsuranceaustralia/homecontentsinsurance_australia.asp

Senior Underwriter, Kirsten Toomey, Business Analyst Portfolio Management Australian Pensioners Alliance Insurance told GoSeeAustralia that APIA will cover theft from a caravan that is a pop-top. 

"Also, with regard to the theft from an annexe, we certainly cover this as
well, however, the annexe does need to have three walls, be attached to the
caravan and be of a solid material - things such as a canvas annexe or an
aluminium annexe are what we are referring to when we refer to "solid
walls" in the policy wording", she said.

A caravan quote is available online at APIA's website www.apia.com.au, and their caravan policy can be  viewed online.

Christopher Fell Assistant Portfolio Manager Niche Products Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Limited told GoSeeAustralia today (Tuesday, April 4) that the Insurance Australia Groups response to contents theft questions raised by caravan owners on GoSeeAustralia is - 

GoSeeAustralia - Does NRMA Insurance provide caravan insurance to people of no fixed address?
“All NRMA Insurance, SGIO and SGIC policies require a residential mailing address”, he said.
GoSeeAustralia - Does NRMA Caravan Insurance provide cover for theft in the event that the insured is broken into, including entry through a soft top or annexe?
“NRMA Insurance, SGIO and SGIC offers cover for theft regardless of where the caravan is broken into and whether or not it has been a forced entry by the thief. Items stolen from the caravan itself are covered, and policy options also exist for theft from onsite caravans with adjoining hard-walled annexes,’’Christopher Fell told GoSeeAustralia.
 
NRMA Insurance, SGIO and SGIC are part of Australasia’s largest general insurance group. Caravan and Recreational Vehicle owner who have questions regarding caravan insurance, should call 132 132 (NSW and Queensland) or 133 233 (Western Australia, South Australia), he said. 

Insurance is issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as NRMA Insurance in NSW, ACT and Queensland, SGIC in South Australia and SGIO in Western Australia. An IAG company.
“When making decisions about a product you should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement available from NRMA Insurance, SGIC or SGIO,” Christopher Fell said.

It is a sign of the times - One caravan owner, looking for more peace of mind, has installed a safe, bolted through the floor with a metal plate underneath and round headed bolts, the nuts are inside the safe. The safe holds purse, wallets, cameras, jewelry, papers and spare keys. Laptop or LCD TV doesn’t fit but extra cover on them as "out of house" items is a safeguard on home contents insurance. 

Editor's note: Place your cursor over the pictures to read captions. 

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