Spare a thought for spare keys
There are plenty of reasons to have a spare key: as back-up in case you lose your main set, so relatives can access your house in an emergency, or so the neighbours can water the plants when you’re on holiday.
But, with half of British homeowners leaving a spare house key somewhere in case they get locked out, many people could be running the risk of invalidating home insurance policies if these keys are used during a burglary.
Our research can reveal that 97 per cent of homeowners across the country have a spare key, with more than a third (34 per cent) having at least two sets of spares.
With more than 14.4 million owner-occupied households in the country2, this means there could be at least 14 million spare keys out there – never mind the spare sets for renters – which could cause issues with home insurance policies.
Plus, with a third of Brits not thinking it’s necessary to change locks when moving house, the real figure could be far higher.
Those aged 18 to 24 also have more sets of spares on average than any other age group. Whilst the national average is 2.4 keys, younger millennials average 3.2 spare keys each.
The most common place for homeowners to leave a house key is with a neighbour, with nearly one in five doing this (17 per cent). However, 19 per cent of men actually leave a spare key under their doormat – almost three times the number of women who do (7 per cent).
Londoners are the most likely to leave a spare set of keys somewhere in case they get locked out, with four in five homeowners in the capital saying they do this. It’s interesting to note that 21 per cent of Londoners aren’t aware that their home insurance could be negatively affected if their house is broken into with a spare key.
That’s all well and good, as long as the location of the key is a secret, but how often is that the case? On average, homeowners claim that 2.2 people that don’t live with them are aware of where a spare set of house keys is kept. This number rises in London, where a country-topping 2.9 people on average are aware of where other people’s keys are.
But East Anglia looks like the most untrusting part of the country, with the fewest people on average being informed of where neighbours are keeping their spare keys.
In fact, of those that leave a spare set of keys in a safe place, 78 per cent said that between one and 10 people that don’t live with them know where this is. Men, on the whole, are more likely to say that someone else knows about this ‘safe’ place (83 per cent versus 71 per cent of women).
Under lock and key
While the lack of awareness around spare keys could prove problematic, even more concerningly some Brits are leaving their property completely unlocked on a regular basis.
So, who are the biggest culprits when it comes to leaving their house unlocked, and who is at risk of invalidating insurance as a result?
Nearly two in five male homeowners (19 per cent) admitted to leaving their house unlocked more than once a week, compared to only 6 per cent of women.
Meanwhile, 25 to 34-year-olds were the worst offenders, with 30 per cent of this age group admitting to leaving doors unlocked at least twice a week.
It seems that living in an area with higher crime rates does not impact British habits with regards to locking their home. In London – a city with a disproportionate concentration of crime according to the Office for National Statistics2 – more than a third (36 per cent) of homeowners admitted to leaving their houses unlocked more than once a week. This is despite the fact that 70 per cent of them were also aware that this could negatively affect their insurance policy.
Looking nationwide, given that there are 14.4 million owner-occupied households in the UK3 and 13 per cent of Brits admitted to leaving their door unlocked more than once a week, we can predict that nearly 1.9 million houses each week are left unsecured, with their owners running the risk of invalidating their home insurance should the worst happen.
Concentrating on the capital, in the last three years, since June 2015, there have been 224,695 instances of burglary recorded by the Metropolitan Police4.
Despite these high numbers of break-ins, Londoners seem to have a relaxed attitude about protecting their homes and keeping them locked and secure, topping the charts in several key areas.
How lost keys can impact your home insurance
Losing your house keys can ruin your day, but the impact can last much longer. If a lost key is used by an opportunistic thief, you might find yourself in a situation whereby you’re not covered by your home insurance.
Some 53 per cent of Brits are unaware that their home insurance policy could be negatively affected if their house is broken into using a lost key. It seems that many Brits are unaware of the potential impact of lost keys.
Homeowners in the 18 to 24-year-old age group are most likely to say they or someone they live with has lost a set of keys, and also those have the largest number of spare keys. Despite this, only 12 per cent are aware that they could risk invalidating their home insurance if a spare key is used to gain access.
In terms of region, those from Wales are the least aware that an unlocked door or lost key could negatively impact home insurance after a break-in – a quarter were not aware of the link.
And spare a thought for your shed! Although more than a quarter of Brits (26 per cent) are unaware of it, belongings in a shed may not be covered by house insurance if it is broken into when unlocked, so it’s always best to make sure it’s safe and secure.