But just how big a problem is this and what can you do to minimise the risk of being targeted by thieves? Well I’m with Pete Markey, who is the marketing director of insurer More Th>n to ask for his advice.
Q1: So Pete, are you seeing an increase in the number of burglary related claims?
Pete Markey: It’s interesting but it’s probably a bit too early to say at the moment, but we can say in previous recessions that actually burglaries and crime does seem to increase, so I suppose it’s a real reason for people to be safe, be secure, make sure their homes are protected and they’ve got the right level of insurance just in case we do see what we’ve seen in previous recessions.
Q2: Because one of the things we’re reading about at the moment is that some people are looking to cut back on the insurance they have to try and save money, but I guess if burglary and crime like that is on the up it makes contents insurance even more important. But levels of cover can vary hugely, as can the price, so what would you say is sort of the minimum everyone should have?
PM: I think the key thing is that people make sure they’ve got the right level of insurance cover, and sometimes the cheapest price doesn’t mean that people get the best level of cover. It’s really important to say what’s the right thing for you, and actually looking at the possessions you’ve got in your home.
What amazes me is – I’m looking at myself here as well – but when you add together the possessions you’ve got in the home, how much they’re actually worth, they’re worth a lot more than people think. If you add electrical equipment, jewellery, paintings, precious things and your family items, those things could soon mount up, so I think its key [that] people, if you’re looking at providers, almost get a piece of paper – write those things down, add up what you think they’re worth, understand the value of your worth.
Q3: And just things like clothes, DVDs and CDs really mount up don’t they?
PM: Absolutely, it’s amazing. I mean go through DVD’s and you’re into hundreds of pounds, and you’re right clothing is really important as well, so I’d say make sure you get the list, check what you’ve got. I mean at More Th>n we offer £75,000 worth of [contents] cover, which is more than enough. There are providers that offer less, I think its really important people check the value of what’s in their home and make sure they’re covered to that level, it’s absolutely critical at the moment.
Q4: Because it can be quite important not to be under-insured isn’t it, because it can affect a claim in that only a proportion of it might be paid out or it might be turned down in full. Can you just explain that?
PM: Yes I can, again one of the really important things is that when people are choosing their insurance provider, if they need to declare certain items upfront - certain high risk or high value items - it’s really important to declare those and be clear on those. Things like jewellery, an engagement ring, we’ve talked about maybe expensive clothing - handbags, shoes, whatever – put those things together and declare them upfront, because most insurers should be covering things like that if you declare them and state the value of them upfront. Where it becomes a challenge is if those things aren’t declared and later if you’re trying to claim for them.
Q5: And with burglary potentially being on the up what can you do to reduce your chances of being targeted by thieves?
PM: What’s really interesting about the rise in burglaries and the challenges are that it’s quite simple to protect your home. So you don’t need a fancy alarm when it’s a case of locking your doors/ A third of burglaries get in through windows, so make sure your windows are locked. Lock your back gate, lock your sheds so people can’t take your lawn-mower or your expensive bike – it’s really practical, simple everyday things that we just need to think about and remember. Almost treating your home a little bit like your fortress you know – make sure things are locked, particularly at night. You get a burglar alarm? Fantastic, that’s an added bonus, but it’s the practical, simple things to protect your home day and night that are easy things to do.
Q6: And if you’re going away on holiday or something like that, is it worth asking a neighbour to pop around to clear the post, or should you leave curtains drawn or open, or lights on timers or anything like that?
PM: Yes, it’s another really important thing again, if you’re away make sure you’ve got a neighbour who’s there to look after your home, feed the cat, check your post. Curtains drawn, undrawn – maybe your neighbours can help with that. I think using lights on a timer is fantastic because it gives the impression you’re in or out. If you’ve got a second car, you could always park that on the drive or make it look like you’re home. But I think having neighbours around to make sure that the home’s safe and secure is really important.
I think other things like being careful who you tell you’re going on holiday, so if you’re on facebook maybe you don’t put ‘I’m off to Spain for two weeks, see you soon!’ so it’s worth thinking about those things as well - so yes, practical, everyday things I think.
Q7: And you mentioned obvious things like locking the doors and shutting the windows – if you don’t, if you forget and leave a window open or the back door unlocked or something by mistake, and you are burgled and they do get in that way, does that mean you won’t be able to claim or will the insurer still pay out?
PM: Again it will depend on the insurer. I think the key bit is get it right in the first place so you don’t have to go through that. A number of insurers, including ourselves, will ask the kind of locks you’ve got fitted because again those things are important. It’s about protection, so yes it could be challenged but that’s why I’d encourage people to be practical, think upfront. Always protect your home even if you’re popping down the shops to buy a pint of milk, lock your house lock your window, check it secure - most important thing to do at the moment.
Q8: I guess the same as with burglar alarms isn’t it, because if you’ve got one, switch it on?
PM: Absolutely yes. I mean another interesting idea for people is actually if you haven’t got a dog for example, you could stick up a sign saying beware of the dog, because that keeps burglars away. When you’ve got things like alarms and locks, use those, but there are some kind of smoke and mirrors things you can do…
PM: Yes absolutely - any way you think would keep burglars out, it’s worth thinking through those things as well.
CF: Brilliant, thanks Pete.