Installing home security measures such as an alarm or window locks not only protects you from burglars, but it could help reduce your home insurance premiums too.
Nearly 270,000 burglaries take place each year in the UK, which means a property is broken into every couple of minutes. Many burglaries are not planned, but are carried out by opportunists who spot a property that looks empty, or like it will provide little resistance. Figures from the insurance industry show 36% of burglars get in through an open door or window, but many others are able to force the locks. With a little money and effort you should be able to improve your security and possibly save money on your insurance.
Make garden access harder
You don’t have to enclose your garden in high security fencing, but you can make it difficult for burglars to gain access to your property via your garden.
- Plant prickly plants. Simple measures like planting prickly burglar-unfriendly bushes and hedges at the boundaries of your garden can make your home less easily accessible.
- Cut back on tall plants in the front garden. Privacy is a priority for many of us, but if you shroud your home in a wall of foliage, your neighbours and any passers by are far less likely to notice when something is amiss.
Are your doors secure?
If you live in an area of high crime an insurer may insist that you have a particular specification of door. The Association of British Insurers recommends that wooden doors should be at least 44 mm thick – and in good condition.
- Fit good quality locks. Your insurer may ask you to fit five lever mortice locks to main doors and/or those that conform to British Standard BS3621. You may get a discount if you fit door bolts or other extra security devices to your doors, so let your insurer know if you make any improvements of this kind.
- Fit window locks to accessible windows. There’s not much point in fitting window locks if you’re high up and there’s no balcony or obvious way of access, but it’s a must for ground floor windows. In some areas insurers will insist on it. If you don’t know where to start with extra security, see if you can talk to your local crime prevention officer. They will look at your house from a burglar’s point of view and will often spot things you can do that you would never have thought of.
Fitting an alarm
If your insurer insists you have an alarm fitted before it will offer you cover it will normally specify the type of alarm you should have (not the brand, but whether it should be connected to a monitoring station and/or fitted by an ‘approved fitter’ and regularly serviced). If you’re installing an alarm because you want one or to get a discount, find out about the minimum standards your insurer requires.
- You may get a discount of 5-10% on your home insurance premiums if you have an alarm fitted. The size of the discount will depend on the insurer and the type of alarm.
- You’ll be expected to turn on the alarm when you leave the house. Check the small print if you have an alarm and are using the discount as you’ll normally have to switch on the alarm every time you leave your property (even if you just pop to the shops or over to a neighbour’s for a couple of minutes).
A spokesman for GoCompare Home Insurance said: “Similarly, leaving doors or windows unlocked or keys hidden under a doormat could make it easy for a criminal to gain access to your home and an insurer may argue that you didn’t take reasonable precautions to secure your home and refuse to pay out for anything that’s lost or stolen.
“The best security measures are those which deter criminals from considering your home an easy target. Locked doors and windows, alarms, security cameras, outside sensor lights and good boundaries such as fences, dense hedges and locked gates will all make it more difficult for a criminal to break in and get away with it.”
Other security measures
As well as fitting an alarm, there are other measures that could result in your insurer offering you a discount on your home insurance.
These include installing CCTV or a Ring doorbell, which enables you to monitor your front door in real time, even when you’re not there, and joining your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
Bear in mind that insurers vary widely in terms of any discounts they might offer, so it’s a good idea to compare quotes from several providers before making a decision. You can compare quotes using this Home Insurance comparison tool.
Disputes over home insurance claims
The Financial Ombudsman Service says it sees a steady stream of complaints about household insurance and security. Often it relates to claims that have been turned down because the householder didn’t have the right locks, doors or alarm.
The Ombudsman Service’s approach is that it is reasonable for an insurance company to ask someone to fit extra locks or alarms. In some areas of high crime these can make a real difference to the likelihood of a property being burgled. According to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), insurers have become more specific about security. A spokesman said: “Over the last couple of years we’ve seen insurers specify exactly what they want – not least because we’ve seen a rise in the number of car keys being stolen so cars can be taken.”
However, just because it’s in the contract doesn’t mean it’s fair. It is not reasonable for an insurer to specify a particular type of lock and not to highlight this when you take out the policy. It also wouldn’t be fair for an insurer to specify a particular type of window lock and reject a claim if a burglar gained entry via a door.
If your insurer does reject your claim, and you think you’ve been unfairly treated, you must complain to them first. If they fail to resolve things, you can then approach the Ombudsman for help. Learn how to go about this in our guide How to complain about a financial company.
If you want to find out more about home insurance generally, read our guide Your essential guide to home insurance.
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