How can I improve my home security?

Homes with simple security measures in place are five times less likely to be burgled, according to police.uk.

To help keep budding burglars at bay and keep your home and contents safe, we’ve developed these home security tips.

With our guide, we’ll take you through the important things you need to know about home security, from what sort of burglar alarm you could install, to what you should do if you’ve been impacted by burglary.

 
 

Should I install a burglar alarm?

Installing a burglar alarm could act as a deterrent to thieves, and there are several different types to choose from, including bells only, wireless and monitored alarms. Choose the right one for your needs, and remember to change up the code every now and again for extra peace of mind.

Burglar alarm

Let’s take a look at the various types of burglar alarms available:  

  • Bells only alarms are the most common type of burglar alarm, and often the cheapest. They simply create a loud noise to scare away crooks, and warn your neighbours.  
  • Wireless alarms use individual sensors throughout the home that communicate wirelessly to the central control panel, typically using radio frequency technology. These are the most popular type of alarm by far, as they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and can be taken to a new home if you move house. One thing to note is that wireless systems can be vulnerable to interference, a bit like Wi-Fi routers or mobile phones, which can result in them responding unpredictably, such as triggering a false alarm. However, these instances tend to be rare.
  • Speech diallers work by automatically contacting nominated friends and family by phone with a pre-recorded message when the alarm is triggered. The pre-recorded message explains what has happened, and what you’d like them to do.
  • Monitored alarm systems usually require an annual subscription to a specialist company, such as ADT or Chubb, which will be contacted in the event of the alarm being activated. Monitoring services tend to be linked to local police forces, who will be called to visit your home if alarm sensors both outside and inside the property are activated. However, police monitoring tends to work on a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ basis, with forces refusing to respond to calls following a trio of false alarms within a period of 12 months.

Whichever system you go for, remember to update your alarm code every now and then, to prevent them from being hacked or overridden. If you’re moving into a new home, change the alarm code ASAP – you don’t know who might know it.  

Who should install my alarm?

While many wireless alarms now come with easy to follow instructions, turning to a professional fitter could offer greater peace of mind. Using a professional firm usually means you'll benefit from a home security system tailored to your specific needs, giving you the confidence that your system is the best one for you.

It’s sensible to seek quotes from different installers in your area, and compare their recommendations and prices. Be sure to check with your insurer to ensure you're compliant with their terms before fitting any alarms in your home.

How much should I expect to spend on an alarm?

The cost of an alarm can vary from around £50 for a wired control panel, to over £200 for a wireless one. You’ll also need a series of sensors or detectors for each part your home that you want your alarm to cover, which are priced anywhere between £10-45 each.

For speech diallers, you’re looking at a cost of at least £100, while a monitored alarm will cost around £15-45 per month, in addition to the installation cost of approximately £100-200.

If you choose to use a professional to fit your alarm, it’ll be around £500 for a wired system, and £700 for a wireless one.

 
 

How do I choose the right locks for my home?

Securing your doors and windows is vital, so make sure yours are strong, and secured with decent locks. Assess your outside doors too: If your doorframes are old or rotting, you’re making it easy for burglars to break in, so it’d be wise to get them repaired or replaced.

You could also fit a guard to the inside of your letterbox for added protection. It’s also important that you don’t leave spare keys under your doormat, or on display where thieves can easily find them.

Choosing the right locks for your home, whether you own or rent, will help give you peace of mind that your home and belongings are safe. Finding the right locks for your needs can seem like a daunting task, along with who should fit them, but we’re here to help.

Lock door

Mortice locks

Mortice locks are set within the body of a door, rather than being attached to the surface. The lock itself is visible at the edge of the door when opened. There are two types of mortice lock, the mortice sash lock, and the mortice deadlock:

A mortice sash lock combines a mortice lock with a door handle, enabling you to open and shut the door without having to use a key when you’re at home. You can then lock it with a key when you go out, and at night. This type of lock comes with different security levels: A 3-lever sash lock is considered a mid-level security lock, and can be used on internal doors, while a 5-lever sash lock offers high-level security, and is more likely to be found on external wooden doors.

A mortice deadlock features a bolt and requires a key. It’s lockable from both inside and out, and offers greater security. Commonly used on front doors, they sit around waist height, and can be combined with a night latch.

Night latches

A night latch tends to be installed around shoulder height on the inside of a door, and can be operated using a knob on the inside, and a key on the outside. These locks are largely used to secure front doors or other external entrances. One of the benefits of a night latch is that it locks automatically when the door closes.

Digital locks

A digital lock features a keypad, and is accessible by entering a four-digit code, rather than by using a key. Digital locks are good for properties with a shared main entrance, such as flats and apartments, and are also common on business premises.

Smart locks

A smart lock works by connecting your smartphone or a special key fob via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Smart locks include a number of features designed to meet your individual needs, such as the ability to give ‘virtual’ keys to friends or family, which only allow access at certain times of day. You also won’t have to carry keys around with you.

If you’re considering getting a smart lock, bear in mind that Wi-Fi locks in particular can be vulnerable to hacking as they’re always connected to the Internet, so make sure your connection is secure before installation. 

Plus, what happens to your smart locks if your Internet goes down? Most will carry on working just fine, while some will require you to key in a code for the lock to open.

Window locks

After doors, windows are a burglar’s next port of call, as you might suspect. It seems obvious, but ensure that you don’t leave any windows open or unlocked when you leave your house or go to bed, and remember to keep your window keys out of sight and out of reach.

Locks that secure the actual window frames together rather than locks that only secure the handle are recommended, as they make it harder for thieves to force the window open. Sash windows can be fitted with specialist screw locks and sash stops.

Depending on the size and style of your windows, you might even want to install more than one lock. Ground-floor windows are particularly vulnerable, so think about planting some prickly bushes below them, as an extra deterrent.

Could the locks I choose affect my Home Insurance?

Some insurers have minimum requirements to be aware of, which differ depending on the type of lock you choose. For instance, your main external door should feature either a mortice deadlock with at least 5-levers, or a lock conforming to a British Standard of at least BS3621.

BS3621 means that the lock has to have the ability to be deadlocked and the key taken away from both sides, so no one can gain access or exit the door without a key. Look out for the British Standard kitemark too, which should be clearly visible on the packaging. Locks bearing this kitemark are often recommended for all exit doors.

Meanwhile, a sliding patio door should be fitted with an anti-lift device to prevent the doors being removed from their running tracks, together with a multi-point locking system, and windows should be fitted with at least one key-operated lock.

Be sure to check with your insurer to ensure you’re compliant with their terms before fitting any locks in your home, including smart locks.

Who should fit my locks?

Although many new locks come with easy-to-follow instructions, if you’re not convinced you’ve got the DIY skills to complete the work, it’s worth seeking the help of a licensed locksmith. They can help you choose the most suitable option for your needs, and can make sure that it’s fitted correctly.

Find a locksmith using the Master Locksmiths Association’s search tool.

What should I do if I’ve lost my keys?

If you’ve lost your keys and don’t have a spare set, a locksmith will be able to change the locks for you, or help you gain entry.

With Swinton, you’re covered for replacement locks and loss of keys with all of our Home Insurance policies, but it’s generally worth getting an extra set of keys cut and leaving them with a trusted friend or relative.

Should I change the locks in my new home?

If you’ve just moved into a new home, you may not be aware of any previous owners or tenants that could still have a key to your home, so it’s essential that you change your locks as soon as possible.

Can I change the locks in a rented home?

Generally speaking, a tenancy agreement effectively means that you own a property for a certain amount of time, and with that comes the right to change the locks, provided you have the landlord’s permission. Always check the terms of your contract, and remember that the landlord might also ask for a set of keys for the new locks.

 
 

Should I install a security light?

The last thing a burglar wants is to be caught committing a crime! A relatively inexpensive way to help prevent a break-in is to illuminate any obvious hiding spots outside your home. Security lights will help to deter burglars and alert neighbours that someone is trying to break in.

Timer switches are also really useful: Programming your lights to turn on when you’re out of the house will give the impression that someone’s home and make any thieves think twice about trying to enter.

Security light

Consider CCTV

CCTV systems can be a great way to improve home security, as they can discourage criminals, as well as help to identify and catch them.

Installing CCTV can be quite costly, so it’s worth seeking advice from your local police force’s crime reduction office first, as they can help you decide which system is best for you.

 
 

How do I secure my garden and shed?

Secure your garden by keeping fences and hedges in good condition – any gaps could encourage intruders. Don’t leave any tools and bikes unsecured, and remove anything that burglars can climb onto, such as ladders and bins. Ensure your shed is securely locked, and think about installing outdoor lighting.

Garden shed

Are the valuables in my shed protected from thieves?

Although sheds can be securely locked and bolted, they’re still seen as being easier to break into than houses. Additional security measures, such as a shed alarm and external lighting, could give you extra peace of mind. Also, keeping valuables out of sight could deter opportunistic thieves from breaking in.

Whether you keep garden tools, a lawnmower, or outdoor furniture in your shed, you should ensure that it’s safely secured. Considering the average household stores items worth around £2,000 in their shed, can you afford to replace your belongings if it was targeted by thieves?

Bear in mind the limit for Theft from Outbuildings is £2,500 for Classic, and £5,000 for Premier Home Insurance policies. Plus, if you’re storing something worth more than £2,000 in your shed, it needs to be listed as a specified Personal Possession – you can do this when you set up your policy with us.

 
 

What else can I do to improve my home security?

As well as installing a burglar alarm and security lights/cameras, and fitting the right locks, you can further improve your home security by keeping valuables out of the way of prying eyes, and by getting friendly with your neighbours.

Improve security

Keep valuables out of sight

Hide any valuable items, such as jewellery and gadgets, so they can’t be spotted through windows by opportunists. This is especially important at night, as well as when you’re away from home. You could also consider buying a safe for extra peace of mind.

Neighbourly bonding

It’s a good idea to be on friendly terms with your neighbours, and keep an eye on each other’s houses. You could even go one step further and join your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme: Neighbourhood Watch is the UK’s largest voluntary movement, bringing together people across the community to help improve the security of local areas.

Preventing burglary at Christmas

It’s important to continue to be mindful about home security during the festive months too, despite it feeling more cheerful and carefree than usual.

Be careful about where you store your Christmas shopping in the run up to the big day. If these are in plain sight through windows, opportunist burglars may be more attracted to your property than others on the street.

At Swinton, we automatically increase your contents cover for Classic and Premier Home Insurance policies from 25th November to 25th January.

 
 

How can I secure my home when I’m on holiday?

You can secure your home if you’re going on holiday by asking a trusted neighbour or friend to keep an eye on your house, using timer switches, and cancelling any deliveries. And don’t forget to keep schtum about your whereabouts on social media!

Holiday security

Cancel newspaper and milk deliveries, and arrange for Royal Mail to hold your post until you return if you’re going to be away for a while.

And while it’s tempting to share your holiday snaps on social media, you could be putting yourself at risk of burglary by advertising the fact that your house is unoccupied.

Remember to check your Home Insurance policy for how long your property can remain unoccupied, as this may affect your ability to make a claim.

 
 

What should I do if I’ve been burgled?

If you’ve been burgled, the first thing you should do is call the police. Be careful not to touch anything, make a list of what’s missing, and remember to get a crime number for insurance purposes. Most importantly, stay safe and remain as calm as you can.

Break in

Nothing can really prepare you for a break-in, so here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do if you discover you’ve been burgled:

1. Call the police

If you think your home has been broken into, your first priority is to call the police. If you suspect an intruder is still in your home, call them on 999 and wait for them in a safe place – don’t attempt to confront a burglar. If the crime is no longer in process, call the police on 101. 

You’ll be given a crime number, which you’ll need if you want to make an insurance claim.

2. Don’t touch anything until the police say it’s ok

Resist the urge to start cleaning up, as you could destroy evidence such as fingerprints, which could be key to police investigations. In the vast majority of cases, the police will attend the same day to interview you and inspect the scene.

3. Cancel your cards

If any bank cards or cheque books have been stolen, call your bank and get them blocked.

4. Make a list of missing items

Go through each room, take photos, and note down everything that’s missing or damaged for the police and your insurer.

5. Contact your insurer

For damage to your home itself, such as broken locks or smashed windows, you will need to speak to the provider of your Buildings Insurance. If any of your possessions have been stolen or damaged, you will need to contact your Contents Insurance provider. Many people have combined Buildings and Contents policies - if you have one of these, you’ll only need to make one call.

If you rent, you don’t need to worry about Buildings Insurance – this is your landlord’s responsibility, so speak to them about arranging repairs. Your insurer might send out a claim assessor, or send you a claim form, where you can record your stolen or damaged property.

6. Ensure your home is secured

Doors or windows damaged during the break-in will need to be fixed straight away. Your insurer will be able to advise you on the process.

7. Seek out support

Don’t underestimate how upsetting a burglary can be. If you feel you need help, Victim Support can be reached on 0808 168 9111, or via their website.