Leaving a spare key to your home with a neighbour or work colleague may seem sensible – but it could lead to your insurance being invalid if your property is later burgled – an insurer is warning.
On average, UK homeowners have seven sets of keys to their home – and these may often be handed out to people who do not live at the property, Admiral home insurance found.
A quarter (24%) give a spare set to neighbours, while just under a fifth (16%) trust their friends with a spare set, and one in 10 give keys to colleagues or co-workers.
Keys may often end up in other people’s possession for other reasons.
Half (50%) of homeowners do not change locks when they move house and six in 10 (60%) have failed to replace locks after losing their keys, Admiral found.
The insurer said it has seen cases where previous homeowners have let themselves in to steal the possessions of new occupants.
Many people also admit they cannot remember what all keys left with them are for. Two fifths (41%) do not know what all the keys they have in their possession do.
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.”
He added: “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.”
Admiral’s own data shows that the number of home insurance claims relating to burglaries in October doubled compared with the average across March to September this year.
More than 2,000 homeowners were surveyed for its research.
Superintendent Peter Crowcroft, at 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.”
Here are tips from Cheshire Police for keeping your home safe:
– Fit locks to downstairs windows or any windows which are easy to reach.
– Keep your house and car keys safe and away from doors and windows.
– Fit a burglar alarm – and make sure it is installed properly and works.
– Fit external security lights around your home, garage or any sheds.
– Keep your garage and garden shed locked with proper security locks, and keep any tools secure and out of sight.
– Trim back any plants or hedges that a burglar could hide behind
– Make sure you have up-to-date home insurance.
– 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.
– Keep desirable items out of view to passers-by.
Here are the most common people homeowners give their spare keys to, according to Admiral, ranked in order:
– 1. Partner or spouse;
– 2. Children who have moved out;
– 3. Other family members;
– 4. Children living at home;
– 5. Neighbours;
– 6. Friends;
– 7. Cleaner;
– 8. Colleague or co-worker.