Leaving a spare key to your home with a neighbour or work colleague could lead to your insurance being invalid if your property ends up being burgled, an insurer has warned.
The number of home insurance claims relating to burglaries in October doubled compared with the average across March to September this year, new findings from insurance group Admiral have revealed.
That comes after an increase in people at home during in lockdown and the summer months having longer daylight hours, resulting in lower burglary rates.
Watch out: Leaving a spare key to your home with a neighbour or work colleague could lead to your insurance being invalid if your property ends up being burgled
Noel Summerfield, head of household at Admiral, said: ‘If your home is broken into by someone who has been given a key, it may not be covered by your home insurance policy, meaning you could end up uninsured if your home is broken into.
‘Make sure you know who you are giving a spare key to and that they will keep it safe and secure.’
Homeowners typically have seven sets of keys to their home, and often hand them out to people who do not live at the property, like neighbours and cleaners.
A quarter of homeowners give a spare set of keys to neighbours, while just under a fifth, or 16 per cent, trust their friends with a spare set, and one in 10 give keys to colleagues at work, according to Admiral.
Half of homeowners do not change locks when they move house and have failed to 60 per cent fail to replace locks after losing their keys.
What a nightmare: Admiral said it had seen cases where previous homeowners had let themselves into a property to steal the possessions of the new occupants
Admiral said it had seen cases where previous homeowners had let themselves into a property to steal the possessions of the new occupants.
While homeowners may think they can trust the people they dish out spare keys to, two in five of 2,000 people surveyed admitted they had no idea what all the keys in their possession are for.
How to keep your home safe from burglars
Here are nine top tips from Cheshire Police to help keep your home safe this winter:
1. Fit locks to downstairs windows or any windows which are easy to reach.
2. Keep your house and car keys safe and away from doors and windows.
3. Fit a burglar alarm – and make sure it is installed properly and works.
4. Fit external security lights around your home, garage or any sheds.
5. Keep your garage and garden shed locked with proper security locks, and keep any tools secure and out of sight.
6. Trim back any plants or hedges that a burglar could hide behind
7. Make sure you have up-to-date home insurance.
8. Consider buying timer switches to turn on table lamps, standard lamps and radios around the home as it gets dark to make it look as if someone is at home.
9. Keep desirable items out of view to passers-by.
Source: Cheshire Police
Mr Summerfield said: ‘At Admiral, we’ve seen examples where a previous owner, or someone they’ve given a spare key to, has let themselves into their old house to steal the new homeowners’ belongings.
‘Even house guests have been known to take a spare key and come back later to help themselves to the homeowners’ valuables.
‘Our investigation proves just how important it is to change your locks when you move into a new home if you think it’s possible you don’t have all the spare keys.
‘Also, if you need a spare key, in case of emergencies, it’s worth paying that little bit extra for a high-quality key safe because leaving a key under a mat or flowerpot isn’t safe or secure.
‘It’s also a bad idea to leave spare keys anywhere on show inside your home, like near a door.
‘We’ve seen incidents where burglars have found a way of getting hold of them through cat flaps and letter boxes.’
Garages and garden sheds also need to be securely locked and it is often a good idea to install external security lights around your property.
Make sure your home insurance is up-to-date and take into consideration that the cheapest cover may not be the best.
You can use comparison websites to ensure you get the best deal and, more importantly, adequate cover.
While many people look set to be spending more time at home under England’s new lockdown restrictions from Thursday, burglaries still occur when people are in their property, both during the day and at night.
Superintendent Peter Crowcroft of Cheshire Police, said: ‘If people are going to be late home from work or out for the day, they need to ensure their home looks lived in, is properly secured and not a target for thieves.’
Is your insurance invalid if you give a cleaner a spare set of keys?
Dr Matthew Connell, director of policy & public relations at the Chartered Insurance Institute, said: ‘There is no one approach taken by all home insurers although some companies explain online what is and is not covered in a few short bullets.
‘You can also ask the insurer directly – it is in their interest as well as yours for the situation to be clear, so don’t be afraid to ask.
‘Although conditions vary, there are some common themes. For example, the more time people spend unsupervised in your home, the less likely you are to be covered for theft.
‘Even leaving the house unattended for a short time can leave you at risk, if you’ve given someone enough time to see something valuable and take it.’
He added: ‘It usually doesn’t cost much to add it to your standard policy, but again if you’re doing it for the purpose of the cleaner – check your policy will cover the third party in your home first.’