In a perfect world, insurance policies would automatically cover all losses that arise from hotel room theft—no questions asked. Sadly, it's not that simple.
While an insurer may end up covering all the losses from your stolen goods, it's far from a sure thing that it will. Whether or not it does is contingent upon a number of factors, such as the terms of the insurance policy, the rules and actions of the hotel, and your level of responsibility in enabling the theft to take place.
Let's take a look at when insurance would or wouldn't cover items that have been stolen from you at a hotel.
First things first: who's to blame?
When theft occurs, there is always someone at fault. Perhaps that person (or group) did everything a reasonable person would have done to prevent the theft, but even then, it's possible that the thief just went above and beyond the realm of reasonableness in order to get away with it.
Determining blame is the first step in sorting out any matters related to compensation for stolen items. Because under certain circumstances, it may not even be necessary to go to your insurance company for reimbursement...
Hotel's burden of responsibility
...Such as when a hotel is fully and indisuputably at fault for the theft! If you can prove that a hotel's negligence was what allowed the theft to occur, then it is very likely that you'll be able to get the hotel to compensate you for some or all your losses.
The reason it might not be a 'sure thing' you get everything back is that hotels have what is called limited liability. Essentially a modernized form of the old innkeeper's liability common law rules, limited liability is state-backed legislation that allows hotels to set limits on how much money they should compensate guests for when a theft occurs.
Those amounts will differ depending on specific situations and locations within the hotel. For example, a limit could be $500 in compensation unless it was for a theft that occured from the hotel safe, in which case it would rise to a figure like $2,000. Or if the hotel was severely negligent, it may be possible to be compensated at full price. This could apply to situations where the items were stolen by a hotel staff, the hotel didn't exercise reasonable care while a guest's property was in its custody, the locks of a room or safe were defective, the hotel wasn't following government regulations, or there was a criminal act by a third party that the hotel did not provide adequate preventative measures for.
When travel insurance kicks in
In the event that the hotel cannot be found to be at fault, then you may be able to be compensated for goods stolen from it by your travel insurance company. But, it will depend on 'the fine print,' so to speak, of your policy—because travel insurance stipulations can be notoriously difficult to benefit from.
Firstly, like hotels and their limited liability protections, travel insurance policies tend to impose reimbursement restrictions for loss of baggage. For example, one prominent Canadian insurer will only cover up to $2,000 worth of lost baggage per trip. In the case of individual items or sets of items being stolen, it will only go up to a maximum of $300 per item.
Then there is the possibility of a claim being rejected on the basis of the insurer's exclusions and limitations. Sometimes that relates to the type of item it is (i.e. glasses, furniture, etc.) or sometimes its because the policyholder did not demonstrate enough care in keeping it safely stored. In almost all cases, a claimant will need to have filed a police report or gotten written documentation of the theft. Having receipts and/or photos of stolen items from beforehand is extremely helpful as well.
When home insurance kicks in
Yes, you read that right: home insurance. Even though a hotel room doesn't fit into the conventional definition of "home," goods that are stolen from a hotel room may actually receive coverage under many home insurance policies.
As is the case with travel insurance, it won't be an absolute coverage. There will be limits imposed on the amount you can claim for each item.
Still, it is a nice benefit that many people don't even realize they have at their disposal.
Both travel and home insurance will typically protect items that are stolen from you at a hotel—up until a point, that is. Determining whose negligence enabled the theft is a crucial factor in any claim assessment. So is the type of item that has been stolen, which may or may not be included in the parameters of the policy. In any event, do your best to keep accurate records of the items you travel with, and if a theft does occur, make sure to immediately document it so that you can be reimbursed with minimal hassle.