It can happen to any of us. Walking to your front door realising that someone’s already broken in and helped themselves to your possessions.
We often deal with burglary claims on behalf of our Aviva Home Insurance customers and our figures show they account for 14% of our annual claims 1. But don’t worry, there are plenty of practical things you can do to keep your home safe all year round.
How do I protect my home?
Burglars look for easy targets – most get in through an open door or window. So, shut and lock your property, even if you’re going out for a short time.
Put good locks on your doors
This is the best way to secure your home, especially if you make sure all external doors have three locking points if possible.
The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) offers advice on how to make your house secure and provides a run-down of the common front door lock types plus the pros and cons.
- 5-lever mortice locks are commonly fitted to wooden doors and lock from both the inside and outside with a key
- Nightlatches, or Yale locks, are frequently used as secondary locks
- Deadlocks can be a deterrent as they can make it hard for thieves to get out again
- Multi-point locking systems are often found on UPVC doors. Three locking points operate simultaneously when the key turns
- Euro cylinder locks also feature on UPVC and composite doors and are a common feature of modern homes
Security bolts and padlocks provide extra protection. Check your home insurance to see which locks are covered. If you’re thinking of getting new PVC or metal doors, make sure they come with good built-in locks and a fitted chain, as they can be expensive to add afterwards.
And don't forget door hinges – with good locks, they can be the first things to break, but hinge bolts add another level of security.
Aviva Home Insurance covers replacement external locks if your keys are lost or stolen.
If you do find yourself locked out of your house, the MLA offers a handy list of approved locksmiths.
Swap glass for something else
Glass panels on doors can be a real weak spot. Consider using laminated glass or a film that covers the glass and makes it harder to break.
Make sure you have key-operated window locks
To further secure your home, fit these on all accessible windows, especially downstairs, and remember to remove keys from sight. Glass patio doors and sliding doors should have special locks fitted to the top and bottom. You can find all of these are your local DIY store.
Make your home seem occupied
Leave lights on when you aren't going to get back before dark. It’s also a good idea to use a timer switch with a radio, but not with a TV in case it overheats.
Install a visible burglar alarm and outside lighting
An approved alarm is another way to protect your home, even a dummy alarm acts as a deterrent.
Good lighting means there aren't any spots for a burglar to hide while they try to get in. Motion-detector lights are especially effective.
Don’t let thieves go fishing
Never leave anything valuable near doors, the letterbox or a window, as thieves can use coat hangers and fishing rods to hook them. Also, don't label your house keys.
Lock ladders and tools away
Most professional burglars don’t carry tools – they use yours, so make sure sheds and outbuildings are locked.
Keep your valuables out of sight
Where possible, keep valuables away from windows. Consoles, games and DVDs are often high on the list of criminals’ must-haves. Other favourites include cameras, computers, mobile phones and jewellery.
Protect your electronic devices
Change your passwords as often as you can and don’t write them down as they are easily discoverable. Also, keep your cyber-security systems up to date.
Your laptop may be old, but that probably won't stop thieves from swiping the hard drive with all your precious data on it. Back everything up in a cloud.
Don’t store valuables in the bedroom
Thieves know that’s where most people keep their precious items, so hide them in different spots around the home.
Security mark your property
You can buy kits to mark or etch your belongings. Use your postcode and your home number or name to increase the chance of retrieving your stolen items.
Keep your car safe from vandals and thieves
Tuck in your wing mirrors and put the aerial down, if you can. If you must park on the street, make sure you choose a well-lit place and secure your wheels using locking wheel nuts if possible.
If you have a garage, use it. This reduces the risk of theft and also protects your vehicle from harsh winter weather and depreciation. It will help to keep your car insurance premium down too. If you must park outside, use a police-approved Park Mark® car park if possible.
Remove your stereo if you can and don't leave valuables in plain sight. Last, but by no means least, never leave the car running to warm up in cold weather if you’re not in it. Thieves could easily jump in and drive away, so make sure you take your keys out of your vehicle, even if you’re just popping out to pay for petrol.
Get an alarm or immobiliser fitted
For older vehicles, a steering lock will do. Arrange for the windows to be etched with the car registration.
Never store your car documents inside the vehicle and don't keep any other important documents or valuables in the glove box.
Watch out for winter
Criminals love winter because it gets dark early and Halloween and Bonfire Night provide perfect cover for the sound of breaking glass. Especially when people go to public firework displays.
Our stats show that burglary claims on Bonfire Night are 21% higher than usual. And malicious domestic damage increases by 150% during Halloween. With Christmas also on the way, the chance that you’ll have valuable presents or an empty house is higher.
So, stay extra vigilant, check your contents cover will insure any high-value presents you’ve bought, and perhaps ask one of your neighbours to keep an eye on your home if you plan on being away over the festive period.
Don’t invite burglars back
Thieves say one of the things they look for when they break-in is your calendar. By marking out when you’ll be away on holiday, for instance, they know exactly when to return for heavier, bulkier items.