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Two thirds of homeowners didn’t change the locks when they moved

20th January 2011

  • Many homeowners have no idea who has keys to their door
  • 3.4 million spare keys ‘hidden’ around people’s homes

People are putting themselves at increased risk of burglary by failing to change the locks when they move home, reveals new research by Direct Line*. Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of people did not change the locks when they moved into their current property.

Millions of Britons give out keys to their home to tradespeople, neighbours and family members without keeping track of how many they have given out and whether they are stored safely. Over 70 per cent of people leave spare keys with family members and 18 per cent keep a key at a friend’s house. Over one in five (22 per cent) people trust their neighbour with a key, while almost one in 20 people give out keys to tradespeople.

The research also reveals that people still make simple security mistakes, despite investing huge sums in security lights, home CCTV systems and deadlocks. These errors include clinging onto the long-held tradition of keeping a spare key accessible in their garden or even under the doormat, a trend Direct Line has dubbed ‘the burglar’s gift.’ Over 3.4 million people (7 per cent) leave a spare door key concealed near their home. Many of their hiding places can be easily found in a matter of seconds, with the top hiding places identified as the garden (under plant pots or paving slabs), in a garage or shed and under the doormat.

Matt Owen, spokesperson at Direct Line commented: “Some people are giving out gold-plated invitations to burglars by failing to change the locks to their home when they move in, or by keeping a spare key in an unsecure place. It is important to keep a track of who holds keys to your property, and if they are left with friends and neighbours, that they are not clearly labelled with your address. If a burglar breaks into a home and finds keys for a nearby property clearly labelled with the address it makes their criminal pursuits even easier. We would recommend that all people moving into a new property change the locks and install a highly rated secure lock to maximise protection.”

Regional findings

Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of Scots changed the locks when they moved into their home, putting themselves at the highest risk of this type of burglary. Londoners are the most security conscious, with more than half purchasing new locks and bolts to ensure no previous resident or their contacts could enter their home simply by turning a key in the lock.

Percentage of householders that did not change the locks when they moved into their home:

Region % of people that did not change the locks to their property when they moved into their home
Scotland 78%
Northern Ireland 77%
West Midlands 73%
Wales 72%
North East 71%
East Midlands 69%
South East 63%
Yorkshire & Humber 62%
South West 58%
East 57%
North West 54%
London 48%

Notes to editors

* interviewed a random sample of 2,671 adults aged 18+ via online omnibus between 12th and 19th November for Direct Line. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

For further information please contact

Ewan Robertson/Kevan Reilly
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Tel: 0207 282 2981/1096

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides car, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting