Research reveals that many burglaries aren’t planned, but are carried out by opportunists spotting a property that looks like it will provide little resistance. With a little money and effort you should be able to improve your security and possibly save money on your insurance in the future.
Garden and fences
You don’t have to enclose your garden in a ring of cacti and brambles but you can make it a little harder for burglars.
- Encourage some prickly plants. Simple measures like planting prickly burglar-unfriendly bushes and hedges at the boundaries of your garden can make your home less of a target. Holly, roses, pyracantha, juniper and blackthorn (sloe) are all up to the job.
- Cut back 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, neighbours are far less likely to notice when something is amiss.
Front and back doors
If you live in an area of high crime an insurer may insist that you have a particular type 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 that conform to British Standard BS3621.
SAVVY TIP: You may get a discount if you fit door bolts or other extra security devices to your doors.
- 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.
SAVVY TIP: If you don’t know where to start with extra security, try your local police force website which will have crime prevention information. You may be able to 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.
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 minimum standards.
You may get a discount of 5-10% off the cost of your premiums if you have an alarm fitted. The size of the discount will depend on the insurer and the type of alarm. However, 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 a neighbour for a couple of minutes).
SAVVY TIP: If you have an alarm and don’t use it all the time and are subsequently broken into, Malcolm Tarling of the ABI says you may still get your claim paid in full. “If you had an alarm to get a discount off your insurance, the insurer may deduct the discount from your claim or may pay it in full. But if your insurer made it a condition of your insurance to have an alarm, your claim may be rejected.”
Disputes over 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/alarms etc.
The Ombudsman Service’s approach is:
- It’s 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.
SAVVY TIP: Graeme Trudgill of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association says that insurers have becoming more specific about security. “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.”
- Just because it’s in the contract doesn’t mean it’s fair. The Financial Ombudsman Service says it’s not reasonable for an insurer to specify a particular type of lock and not to highlight this when you take out the policy.
SAVVY TIP: 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.
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