Thousands of householders are failing to take basic security measures because they expect their neighbours to help keep their homes safe when they are away.
One in four people say the key to feeling safe from burglary or other domestic problems is “having trustworthy neighbours”.
This is according to a new research from trade body the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Opportunities for thieves
But the ABI warned that this kind of attitude risked creating complacency among householders.
Its survey found that almost three in every 10 people leave their doors unlocked and windows open when leaving their homes to go out briefly.
The organisation also estimates that a quarter of households have no home contents insurance, which would cover their possessions in the event of burglary or fire, for example.
Nick Starling, director of general insurance at the ABI, says: “It can be reassuring for householders to have neighbours they can trust.
“But this alone cannot substitute for the value of sensible home security measures.
“Common mistakes, such as leaving doors unlocked and windows open, could invite thieves, putting your possessions at risk.
“And with one in four households without home contents insurance, homeowners could be left footing a big bill to replace valuables.”
The government publishes details of things you can do to prevent burglary.
Tenants should ask their landlords to provide adequate security measures if they are not already in place.
Spare keys danger
The ABI’s warning follows a report earlier this year that householders were putting themselves in danger of having home insurance claims turned down by giving out spare sets of keys.
Research from Confused.com found that more than two-thirds of people had given out a spare set of keys to family, friends, neighbours or tradesmen.
This is despite the fact that this could in some circumstances invalidate insurance cover.
Gareth Kloet, head of home and car insurance at Confused.com, says: “Many home insurers will not pay out unless forced entry is proven.
‘Protect your investment’
“So if you move into a new home, have given out your house keys to someone you no longer trust, or if you have lost or misplaced your keys, change the locks.
“Your home is typically the single largest investment people make so we would encourage anyone without home insurance or adequate security to think carefully about protecting their investment more wisely.”
An ABI spokesman adds: “Homeowners must be aware that if there are no signs of forced entry and you cannot account for your spare keys, your insurer may have reason to question the claim.”
Of course, as long as you’re aware of this fact, it is up to you to decide whether to give a set of spare keys to people you trust, including neighbours.
Do you trust your neighbours?
Kloet, who lives in Cardiff, adds: “I have keys to my neighbours’ house and they have keys to mine.
“We exchange gifts at Easter and Christmas and at Christmas we got together with about 10 other neighbours at Christmas for a drink in the local pub.
“Good neighbours are a massive asset so we consider ourselves to be very lucky.
Carrie Baker, an IT worker at Confused.com agrees. Baker says her mother’s neighbours, in Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, are “amazing”.
“My mother is 76 and one of her neighbours pops in or phones most days.
“They have keys, check on the house when she is away and look in on her when she is poorly.
“It’s a real comfort to know they are so close. Family call on her too, but this is extra security.”
Nerys Chaplin, who works in data analysis at Confused.com and lives near Chepstow in Monmouthshire, also says her neighbours are a benefit.
“I live in a village of about 20 to 30 houses in a rural area and I know or have met most of my neighbours.
“One of our neighbours looked after our cats and horses for a week while we went on holiday and we buy our eggs from two different neighbours.
“It is a very friendly and supportive community. We know there are several people we could ring or places we could go if we ever needed help.
“I think it is partly to do with it being a rural area with no services close by, and most of the residents are retired or older families.
“Neighbours weren’t at the top of our list of considerations when choosing our house but they are definitely one of the best things about it.”
What do you think?
Do you trust your neighbours - do you even know them? And do they have a set of spare keys for your house?
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