What Small Businesses In Los Angeles Can Do If They've Been Looted
During this time of demand for change, a global pandemic, and a recession, emotions are already running high, and now recently, business owners in Los Angeles had to watch their windows get smashed and their goods get stolen from their television screens. So many memories are wrapped up in these stores for both the local community and store owners, not to mention that so much money is lost in stolen and damaged property. Though if you’re a small business owner in Los Angeles whose store has been looted, it’s not over, and whether you’re covered by insurance or not, here are some steps you can take after you’ve assessed the damage.
The First Steps, Insurance or Not
It’s very helpful to document the situation at hand. Without moving anything, take photos of the scene in your store and an inventory of what’s broken or missing, using records or receipts to do so. That way you can file a police report including exactly what was stolen, along with the items’ identifying features, AND you’ll have photos to accompany the report.
When you file the police report, make sure you keep copies of all the photos. The more information you will provide, the better luck you’ll have with the police investigation. It also helps to ask for a copy of the police report so that you’ll have it to show insurance companies that you’ll be talking to in the near future, as well as help you prove stolen property if you find one of your missing items later at, say, a pawn shop or another third party seller.
Assuming other nearby businesses were also looted, check in with their owners if you can to see if they have security camera footage from outside their store that might show your store getting broken into. Any extra information you can gather might help state your case of stolen property to both the police and insurance companies. Down the road, if you do locate anything that looks like your property via an online selling site such as eBay or Craiglist, make sure you contact the authorities to handle getting in touch with the seller and don’t risk your safety to go after the seller yourself.
It’s also important to do what you can to prevent future damage to your business. For example, think about buying wood to board up your windows. If you save the receipts for the wood, you’ll be reimbursed for it in the future.
If You Have Insurance Coverage
Once you’ve got the inventory list made and a police report filed, you’re going to want to fill out some paperwork before calling your insurance company to go over the claim. The detailed inventory list will help you in the paperwork step of the process. Your claims report should include the following information about your damaged or stolen property:
- Where your items were purchased
- When your items were purchased
- How much your items cost
- What brand your items are
- What models your items are
Don’t get rid of any damaged property, either, as your insurance company may need to review it to complete your claim. You’ll want to have a copy of your insurance policy on hand during this process as well. Given the circumstances, it’s doubtful that the insurance company will dispute your claim, but if they want to conduct an investigation, cooperate with them fully so you can get the job done.
While you’re on the phone with your insurance company and have your policy right in front of you, it’s definitely an opportune time to ask questions about your policy, such as upgrading it to include coverage like, say, earthquake insurance. Also, remember that depending on how many businesses nearby have also been looted and how much your property has been damaged, processing times can vary for reimbursements.
If You Don’t Have Insurance Coverage
Only about half of small businesses have insurance that would cover damages as a result of looting, according to Loretta Worters, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, NBC reported a few weeks back. Many of the businesses that we’re talking to at RebuildOur have some insurance, but after contacting their insurance companies, they’ve found that the looting damages to their stores aren’t covered under their policies. It’s a harsh reality many business owners in Los Angeles are facing right now.
While businesses aren’t required to have insurance to cover property damage, if you rent your building, your landlord may require you to have some sort of coverage to protect them from liability. If you own your building, your mortgage lender would require you to have coverage. You’ll want to look into all of these options when navigating the best route during these difficult times.
Once you’ve exhausted your options, a great resource to reach out to is the U.S. Small Business Administration. While applying for a no-interest or low-interest loan is not going to be free, it can help jump-start the rebuilding and restocking process. It’s also worth noting that the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety has been conducting free safety assessments for any business owners who ask, and the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management is asking businesses that have suffered property damage due to the recent looting to complete a survey, in which the information will be used to petition the federal government to declare an emergency in the county and release additional financial assistance.
Many small business owners we’ve talked to in Los Angeles are finding strength in their local communities as well. Neighbors have not only helped clean up the looting aftermath but also have set up GoFundMe campaigns for the affected businesses to help cover the costs of rebuilding or finding new locations, as well as replacing any stolen or damaged goods. Many of these campaigns have had great success, with people raising thousands of dollars already, which is a testament to how much value Los Angeles communities place on their local small businesses.
If you’re a small business owner who is in need of assistance in setting up a GoFundMe page or getting connected to these resources and more, please reach out to our organization. We exist for the sole purpose of telling your story and amplifying your voice. Check out our resource guide, fill out a quick form if your business is interested in our assistance, and, if you’re a Los Angeles resident reading this article and looking to get involved in helping affected businesses and communities, fill out our volunteer form.
Author: Ally Spiroff
Ally Spiroff is the Public Relations Manager at Hawke Media and a freelance journalist for publications such as Runner’s World, Bicycling, Vice, Fitt, and others.