19% of homeowners leave a spare key under a plant pot, risking their home being burgled by opportunistic thieves and an insurance claim being refused
According to data gained by insurer LV=, there has been a sharp increase in the number of home burglaries in which house keys have been used to enter properties. LV= – via FOI request responses – found 2.74% of burglaries in the UK now involved a key. 23 police forces responded to freedom of information requests which confirmed 6,091 burglaries between January-November 2014.
In 2013 there were 510 burglaries with keys per month on average, while in 2014 there were an average of 554 burglaries with keys per month.
The data shows that over 6,000 homes were entered after opportunistic thieves scoured properties for keys ‘hidden’ in common spots. According to LV= research, 29 per cent of householders admit they leave spare keys hidden somewhere outside their property, with favourite hiding spots including beneath doormats, plant pots or even garden gnomes.
Despite the security risks, leaving a key hidden outside the home is an age-old tradition with nearly one in three (29%) Brits admitting they leave a ‘spare’ hidden on their property. The most common places to hide a key are under a plant pot (19%), bin (13%), rock or stone (13%), doormat (10%) and under a gnome or garden ornament (8%).
The main reason for leaving a key out is so that friends and family can get into the house while they are away from home. One in four (25%) leave one hidden in case of emergency and a similar number (23%) do so in case they ever lose their keys.
Those leaving a key out believe it’s safe to do so because they only leave it unattended for short periods of time or they think they have a really good hiding place, while others believe it’s safe to do so because they live in a safe neighbourhood.
A fifth of Brits (20%) also admit to leaving their front or back door unlocked when they’re out and millions of people have lost track of spare keys to their home. On average, each household has lost at least two keys that were cut for friends, family or people working in their home, which means that nearly 20 million spare keys are currently unaccounted for in the UK.
Selwyn Fernandes, Managing Director of LV= home insurance said: “While the number of burglaries is falling overall, it is alarming to see that the number of thefts where the burglar used a key is increasing.
“Burglars know that people tend to leave a spare key in a handful of places near their door and will often search these before attempting a break-in. Don’t make their job easier for them by leaving keys where they can easily be accessed. If you must leave a key outside, use a Police approved key safe and only give the code to people you trust.”
Sometimes, thieves steal householders keys at an earlier date, such as part of a snatch and grab. Thieves can then track down the owner or even follow them home and access the property because homeowners failed to change the locks.
Is it really worth the risk of having your home broken into? Obviously the answer is no. Don’t make the traumatic experience of having a thief taking your belongings even worse by finding out that your insurer is well within their rights to only pay out a fraction of your claim, or worse nothing at all.