SPECIAL FEATURE: How to reduce burglaries

More than 6,000 burglaries took place last year that did not involve a break-in to gain access to the property.

Opportunistic thieves scoured properties for keys supposedly hidden in common spots and then let themselves in with favourite hiding spots including – yes, you’ve guessed it – garden gnomes as well as doormats and plant pots but on a serious note they could be invalidating their home insurance.

Top tips:

1. Always close and lock windows in unoccupied rooms and particularly when the entire house is unoccupied to avoid exposing the household to theft

2. Never leave spare keys hidden outside the house as if a burglar uses them to gain unforced access, the policy may be void

3. Make sure any dog flap is too small for anyone to gain access through as if it’s not, this may also void a claim

4. Accurately describe all window and door locks when completing a home insurance application and inform the insurer if any upgrades are made as they may refuse any payout if locks have been described incorrectly

5. Activate a burglar alarm if one is in place whenever the home is left unoccupied – even if just for a few minutes. If it isn’t on and the home is broken into, the insurer may not pay out on any claim for theft

6. Secure tools that could help a burglar gain entry to the home (ladders, hammers and the like) as an insurer could refuse a payout if the householder has been deemed negligent in their duty of care under the terms of the policy

7. If the home is going to be unoccupied for more than 30 days, arrange for someone to stay for at least one night within the period as any period after 30 days may be voided

8. If it is essential to leave a key outside – if carers need access to visit elderly or disabled occupants for example, then use a police approved key safe and only give the code to trusted people