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Have you renewed your home contents insurance recently? Did you scratch your head a little at any time during the process thinking: ‘What an odd requirement’ or maybe ‘what on earth do they mean by that? Don’t worry you are not alone and, in fact, insurance security requirements are the subject of a fair number of emails I receive from the public each year.
Here’s one from and chap called Dell, which I received in June 2015
‘Hi.. Just browsing your very informative website and thought you might be interested in an issue I am having with RIAS insurance with regards to a thumbturn lock.
I emailed REAS just to ask the situation with regards to a thumbturn lock on the front door of the property (UPVC fitted with multipoint system) which is, in fact, the porch door as the original front door is still in place. This original front door is fitted with BS 5 lever mortice lock and this was explained in the email.
Today I received a letter saying the insurance would be cancelled in 7 days unless the thumbturn lock is replaced.
The irony of this is if I remove the 5 lever mortice lock from the original front door (as this is not a requirement anyway) and replace the thumbturn lock with an ordinary euro lock [cylinder] they will be quite happy. I am sure you will agree it is a crazy situation when fitting extra locks invalidates your insurance.’
Here’s part of my reply......
You must be finding this situation most frustrating, but I think this boils down to the insurer's definition of a 'final exit door', which is now your porch door and not the original one. Also, insurers of domestic risks try to keep their security requirements simple and generic and it seems that there is little or no room for compromise or finding solutions for individual risks. It's just too complicated for the insurers and the business they run.
If it was me making the decision, knowing you have a BS lock on the inner door, I would accept the thumb turn providing there was no unguarded letter plate in the porch door. Letter plates are often used by burglars to access the back of a lock, which is why I recommend the use of external, lockable letter boxes instead. Should access be gained to your porch by manipulating the thumb turn via the letter plate the burglar can then attack the inner door without being seen from the street. Also, with the outer door closed the noise would be dampened. I know this all sounds a bit over the top, but it does happen.
While you're changing the thumb turn for a lock cylinder might I suggest that you replace the outer cylinder as well for one that is kitemarked to prevent 'bumping', unless, of course, your door already has this..............’
Dell then replied with the following:
‘Thanks for the very comprehensive reply. The thing that seems crazy to me is that if I completely remove the porch door, making the old front door the final exit door, they will be happy but as you say they only think in black & white.
The job that I do means that I visit a large number of houses and quite a high number have thumbturn locks, often fitted on new-build properties. I wonder how many of these people have even mentioned it to their insurance companies. As you say a minefield and I guess they will not find out the implications until they try and make a claim.
Thanks for the advice on upgrading [the] locks. This is currently something that I am in the process of doing. Fortunately I live on the outskirts of Chelmsford so not too bad for crime in general and we are very security conscious working on the theory that most of the low-life that go around robbing people are opportunists (you would be amazed or maybe not at how many houses I visit where nobody is at home and the doors or windows have been left open).
Keep up the good work with the website of which I will be regular visitor in future.’
What should we learn from Dell's experience?
First of all we should all take heed of what Dell is saying. In effect Dell is telling us that if we don’t do exactly what the insurance company require of us, or get some written agreement from them if your security measures don’t match their requirements, then don’t be surprised when things go badly wrong should you have to make a claim. A burglary is bad enough, but not to be able to claim on your insurance is the proverbial ‘double whammy’.
Many years ago building and contents insurance was sold to us by people and through brokers (rather than by computer programs) where you had the opportunity to discuss your security arrangements before purchase. Sometimes an insurance surveyor would even visit your home to satisfy that your security matched their requirements. This still happens today in a few cases where the risks are very high, but by and large most people these days buy their insurance on-line and this is where the problems lie.
To make the buying process on-line quick and easy insurance security requirements have become largely generic and simple and the requirements often bear no relevance to the doors and windows you might have on your dwelling.
Take my own place, for example. My final exit door is a PAS 24 2012 enhanced security doorset fitted with a PAS 3621 multi-point lock, anti-bump cylinder and P1A laminated glass. When I spoke with the insurer who now insures my property about the security requirements he told me that they required a BS 3621 mortice deadlock on my final exit door. I explained that this was not possible and that I had the multi-point version of BS 3621, but he had no idea what I was talking about! As it turned out, when he checked my postcode, I didn’t require BS 3621 locks on any of my doors, because the burglary rate is very low. That in itself is completely nuts since BS 3621 locks (albeit unsuitable for my type of door) is the minimum standard recommended by police, locksmiths and this website for simple external timber doors.
And what about my new alarm? My regular readers will know that at the beginning of 2015 I renewed my alarm system. It’s pretty much all singing and dancing and I know that it is a major contributor to the security package for my home. Because my wife and I now live on our own (both lads have now gawn) the alarm is always set using the fob when we go out. In the past I’ve not told the insurer’s about the alarm, because I was always worried that one day I might forget to set it on the very same day that I got burgled. I knew then that I wouldn’t be covered by the insurance if I hadn’t set it, so I waived the 10% I would have otherwise got off the premium.
This time though, with our new-found routine, I thought I would tell them about the alarm, so imagine my surprise when they told me that I had to set the thing at night as well if I wanted to get the 10% discount. Julia and I had already discussed this and decided that night setting was simply not for us. We can do it if we choose, but don’t want the hassle and anyway the physical security of my place is to a high standard and the chance of an unheard burglary during the night is very remote. So, once again we’ve waived the discount.
I did ask for 5% though, because I rightly argued that my home was a lot more secure than a dwelling without an alarm. The computer said ‘No!’
Also be very careful when filling out on-line comparison sites for home insurance. I clicked 'multi-point locking doors' on the comparison site when asked to tick a selection for the final exit door. When I went to the actual insurance company's site and checked through the details that had been transferred over it showed me as having ticked 'External doors fitted with BS 3621 mortice deadlocks'!!
I’ve gone on long enough so I’ll close by simply reminding you all to check your policy’s security requirements in detail. Make sure you are complying with all their conditions and if not you must write to them and obtain their written agreement for any alternative (and possibly better) security you have in place. The reason you must write is that you need a written record in case there is some dispute later on and also the people who answer the phones will, generally, not know what you’re talking about as they will have very limited training in respect to security.
Remember! Insurance companies exist to make profits for their shareholders. They do not exist for your benefit. If you want your home’s contents to be protected you must play the game exactly to their rules, however crazy they might be!
See also Insurance Company Requirements
Updated June 2015