If you're renting, your landlord may be responsible for handling some of the things discussed on this page. Check your tenancy agreement (or occupation contract in Wales) or speak with your landlord. If you're not sure, call our Helpline for further advice.

 

Your doors and windows

Whether you live in a house or a flat, protecting your doors and windows can go a long way to increasing your overall security. A surprising number of burglars don’t have to use any force – they simply get in through an open window or door.

Doors

Around 70% of burglars enter through a door, so it’s important to protect your doors as a first line of defence. 

Make sure you know how to close your door properly. To fully engage the locking system on most UPVC or composite doors you must lift the handle, turn the key and then remove it. Don’t leave your keys in locks or lying around – put them in a safe place where they’re hidden, but where you can find them easily in case of an emergency.

Flimsy doors and inadequate locks are a security risk. Check the door frame to make sure it’s sturdy and not rotten, and make sure the hinges are strong enough. You can fit hinge bolts or security hinges for extra security. Glass panels on doors are vulnerable so it’s worth replacing them with laminated glass, which is harder to smash.

French doors, patio doors and conservatories need to be as secure as other external doors. Install additional locks and security blocks to stop lifting or forced entry. If you’re buying new patio doors, ask for the sliding section to be on the inside and for anti-lift blocks. It’s a good idea to have multi-locking systems or mortice security bolts with removable keys at the top and bottom of both doors.

When buying new doors, make sure they meet the PAS 24 standard – this is the minimum standard of security for doors and windows in the UK.

Windows

Roughly 30% of burglars enter through a window. Modern windows with multi-point locking systems don’t usually need extra locks but they should have locking handles, except on windows that may be used as a fire exit.

There are some simple precautions you can take to protect your other windows:

  • fit window locks – especially for windows that are easily accessible, such as on ground floors, above flat roofs or near a drainpipe
  • add adhesive window film to protect glazing from being smashed (make sure it meets the British Standard number BS EN 12600)
  • window shock alarms are relatively cheap and easy to fit. They may come with an adhesive warning sticker that can act as an additional deterrent.

When buying new windows, make sure they meet the PAS 24 standard – this is the minimum standard of security for doors and windows.

Other tips

  • A letterbox draught excluder makes it difficult for intruders to see inside your property.
  • A cage or restrictor on your letterbox can prevent anyone from reaching inside and trying latches or fishing for keys.
  • Get a security chain and use it when you’re answering the door. You don’t need to leave this on all the time if other key holders, such as carers, need to get in.
  • A peephole or viewer can help you identify callers – you can get these in different sizes if you have a visual impairment.
  • If you have a door security system, don’t buzz anyone in that you don’t know or if you're not expecting people.

Distraction burglary

Beware of bogus callers and always ask for ID. Door-to-door callers sometimes work in pairs – one distracts you while the other carries out the burglary. Don’t answer the door if you don’t want to, and if you do, keep the security chain on.

For more information on how to deal with this type of situation and stay safe, see our guide Scamwise.

Outside your home

As well as your home itself, there are a number of other things outside your home worth considering to make you feel safe.

At the front

Create a boundary at the front of your home with a low wall or fence, or by planting prickly or barbed shrubbery, such as holly, firethorn or hawthorn, if you’re able to maintain them. You could also plant low-growing thorny shrubs below windows and drainpipes. 

Always keep your front gate closed – consider fitting a gate spring – and keep fences and walls in good repair. If your back garden has an access gate, keep it padlocked and make sure the gate can’t just be lifted off its hinges.

Keep the view into your front garden clear so any potential intruders are visible. Cut back any overhanging branches or foliage. Boundary fences, walls, shrubs and bushes should be no more than about 1m (3 ft) high. You may need planning permission to make changes to a fence, wall or gate. Contact your local council’s planning department to find out.

If you need help with your garden, see our guide Getting help at home.

Keep your garden tidy

Sheds are often targeted by burglars. It’s common for garden tools to be stolen or used to break in. Keep them locked in sheds and gardens, and ask your neighbours not to leave tools out either. Don’t leave rubbish, ladders, wheelie bins or anything else lying around that could be used for burglary or vandalism.

The Royal Horticultural Society also has some useful information on how to increase the security of your garden.

Alarm systems

Burglar alarms can be a very effective deterrent. There are many different types and costs vary, so get advice before you buy. You’ll need to decide whether you want a system that just sounds an alarm or one that contacts you, nominated friends or family, or a security company when it’s triggered.

Don’t be tempted to use a dummy alarm – they’re easy to spot – and never buy from cold callers or telesales enquirers. You should get at least three quotes from an accredited company.

You can get more information about the different types of alarm and how to find an installer from the National Security Inspectorate and the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board.

Your local police Safer Neighbourhood Team or Crime Prevention Officer may be able to advise you. You could also speak to your insurance company.

CCTV

Home CCTV is more affordable these days and it’s possible to buy relatively cheap cameras. You can also get smart doorbells such as Ring, which help you see who’s at the door before you open it.

Security when you’re not at home

Whether you’re just popping out for five minutes or going away for longer, you should always lock up. If you’re going on holiday, there are precautions you can take to make sure your home stays secure while you’re away.

Create a habit

Follow a routine so that every time you go out, your home is secure. Always lock up if you’re going out, even if it’s just to a communal area in your building, like a laundry. A surprising number of burglars don’t have to use force – they simply get in through an open window or door. 

Leave a visible light on if you go out in the evenings and don’t leave a spare key in a hiding place (for example, under a doormat or fake stone, or in a plant pot). Leave spare keys with a family member, friend or trusted neighbour instead.

You could consider fitting a key safe. This is a secure box fitted to an outside wall, containing a set of house keys and opened by a code. Choose one that’s police approved. Only give the code to trusted people and fit it somewhere out of sight. Age UK’s handyperson scheme  may be able to help you fit one.

Going on holiday

If you’re going away on holiday, don’t leave your home looking unoccupied.

Do:

  • cancel newspapers, milk and any other regular deliveries
  • create the impression someone is home by using light and radio timers – but don’t use a timer switch in a room that passers-by can easily see into
  • ask a friend or trusted neighbour to keep an eye on things. They could close gates, water plants and make sure post doesn’t pile up. For a fee, you could use the Royal Mail’s Keepsafe service. They’ll hold onto your mail while you’re away and return it to you once you’re back
  • put valuable items out of sight or in a safe. You could leave them with a trusted friend or family member, but check whether your or their insurance would cover the items if they were stolen.

Don’t:

  • close all your curtains and blinds – this is a giveaway to burglars that no one’s at home
  • tell anyone outside your family and close friends that you’re going away or for how long
  • post your holiday photos on Facebook, for example, until you get back and be careful what you say on social media.

Just before you leave, lock all doors and windows and set your burglar alarm if you have one.

If you’re going away on a longer trip, make sure your home is still covered by your insurance policy. Some insurance policies may not cover a home that's been empty for 30 days or more. If you're planning to be away for a while, you should consider getting unoccupied buildings insurance.

Getting help

For crime prevention advice, contact your local police Safer Neighbourhood Team or Crime Prevention Officer by calling 101 or go to Police.uk if you live in England or Wales, or scotland.police.uk if you live in Scotland. 

Your local Neighbourhood Watch can also advise:

If you think you need planning permission to make changes to your existing garden, or to add a new fence, check with your local planning authority.

If you need to have locks fitted or changed, use a professional locksmith. You can find an accredited locksmith through the Master Locksmiths Association. They can offer more detailed information and advice about locks.

You can find trading standards-approved businesses through Buy With Confidence, or ask your friends and neighbours for recommendations. Your local Home Improvement Agency may also be able to help you install things like locks, door chains, viewers, alarms or a key safe:

Next steps

For crime prevention advice, contact your local police Safer Neighbourhood Team or Crime Prevention Officer by calling 101 or go to Police.uk if you live in England or Wales, or scotland.police.uk if you live in Scotland. 

See our Home security guide for more information.

Money Advice Service has useful information about choosing home insurance and contents insurance

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