How lost house keys could affect your home insurance

How lost house keys could affect your home insurance

You’re leaving the house - what do you take with you? Your phone, your bag or wallet and, of course, your keys. Think of the hassle if you lost them and couldn’t get back into your home – but that’s not the only potential problem. What if they fell into the wrong hands?

House keys can cause you headaches if you lose them and they’re used by thieves to gain access to your home.

Many home insurance policies won’t pay out for burglary unless there is forced entry to your property, meaning you could be putting yourself at risk if you are particularly liberal with spare keys or leave them where a thief might find them.

MoneySuperMarket set out to discover the habits of British homeowners regarding their house keys; how many they own, who they trust with them and how many they’ve lost without changing the locks afterwards.

The land of lost keys

With nearly two in five (37 per cent) UK homeowners admitting to losing at least one set of house keys in their lifetime, it’s clear that they’re not the most careful when it comes to keeping an eye on their keys.

But who exactly is losing all of these keys? According to the research, men are more likely to have keys to their house lost than women, with 44 per cent of the male population having lost or living with someone who has lost a house key, compared to 32 per cent of women.

Who loses the most keys?

And when we take a closer look at the age breakdown, it doesn’t look good for the younger generation. A massive proportion – nearly nine in 10 – of those aged 18 to 24 have lost or lived with someone who has lost a set of house keys – the highest of all age groups.

In terms of the most safety conscious area of the country, the North East has it locked up. With only 22 per cent admitting to losing a set themselves or living with someone who has. It seems homeowners in Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and beyond come out on tops in terms of keeping track of their keys.

London, on the other hand, does not fare so well with an incredible 68 per cent of residents in the capital having lost at least one set of house keys, or lived with someone who has done so.

Despite keys going missing all over the country, it’s remarkable that almost a third (31 per cent) of British homeowners didn’t have their locks changed after losing a set. Those over 55 were the least likely to have changed their locks, with nearly half (48 per cent) admitting they didn’t call a locksmith when they realised they’d lost their keys.

4,464,000 houses are left open at least once a week

Those that lived with a partner were also less likely to get their locks changed after losing a house key – 56 per cent didn’t – with men more inclined to do so than women (74 per cent versus 61 per cent respectively).

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).

Most common spare key hiding places

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.

How often do Brits leave their doors open

Capital risk

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.

The capital and their keys

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.

House keys and home insurance issues

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.

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Sources

1 English Housing Survey Headline Report, 2016-17

2 ibid

3 ibid

4 https://www.met.police.uk/

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