Having guests over to your house for an evening or a weekend is great. Having them walk out to their car and discover someone smashed in the windows or knifed the tires isn't quite as cool. In most cases the chance of collecting under your homeowners insurance policy is pretty slim.
The first resort for a damaged car is car insurance. That holds true even if the car's parked at your house. Your guest's comprehensive auto insurance covers vandalism and theft, but if the car is an older one, the settlement won't be much. Many drivers with older cars don't even bother with comprehensive coverage because it's not worth the premiums. Even without the coverage, some of the damage may be covered: Florida state law, for instance, mandates that auto insurance cover windshield damage.
A typical homeowners policy -- referred to in the industry as HO-3 -- covers vandalism and theft along with natural forces such as storm damage and fire. It doesn't cover cars, however, even if they're parked in your driveway. If the vandals smashed the window and stole your guest's property out of the car, that would usually be covered by her personal homeowners policy. If there's a clause in your homeowners policy covering theft of your guests' possessions, that might apply, however.
Homeowners insurance protects not only against damages but lawsuits, for example when someone takes you to court for an accident. That won't be much help if a stranger tears up the car, but if your son decides to key the car's new paint, liability coverage might spare you from paying to repaint it. If you knew there was a high risk of someone smashing up the car and didn't mention it, that might also leave you liable.
Even if your policy has some clause that would entitle your guest to coverage, it may not help. If you have a $5,000 deductible and the vandals caused $4,000 worth of damage, your insurer isn't going to pay. There's also a risk of the insurer raising your rates or canceling your policy if you make too many claims. Using up a claim to help your friend is noble, but if you feel responsible, paying for repairs yourself might be safer in the long run.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.