My Rental Property Got Broken Into And Burgled – This Is What Happened


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Aye? What about burglars?

As a landlord blogger that’s shared his experiences – the highs, the lows, and everything mushy in-between – for the past decade, I’ve never once grappled with the topic of rentals being invaded by burglars or home security (i.e. our tenants security in our properties). To be perfectly honest, I’ve never even thought about it, and yet, unfortunately, I bet the occurrence is as common as a two-dollar gigolo contaminated with herpes. Regrettably, I’m slap-bang in the middle of this bullshit now, so here we are. Let’s talk about it!

Over the years I’ve dedicated so much of my blood, sweat and other salty fluids on preparing landlords to avoid, combat and deal with the lowest-of-the-low tenants, that I completely lost sight of all the other dangers. I feel like a parent that religiously taught my children to look left, right and listen before crossing the road, but completely forgot to teach them about the importance of contraception (or withdrawing just in time). What kind of parent does that make me? I dread to think!

How my Tenant’s home got broken into!

Statistically speaking, burglars are most likely to strike during the day when most people are at work. Instinctively, that may seem odd, because many of us imagine that it happens at night (by a man in a black & white stripped sweater, carrying a brown sack). But no, the reality is, most burglars are chicken-shit cowards, so they don’t want confrontation – it increases their chances of getting caught and/or being smashed in the face with a baseball bat.

On Tuesday, around 1:30pm, someone knocked on my tenant’s door. She was in the house but chose not to answer because she was upstairs; scrambling around, preparing for an appointment she was already running late for.

10mins later, two Caucasian men dressed in all black, wearing ski-masks (of course, what else?) climbed over the back garden fence and used a crowbar to effortlessly smash through the sliding patio door.

The speculation is that the knock on the door was one of the men checking to see if anyone was home. I say speculation because there is no real evidence to prove it, but that was almost certainly the case and I’d bet my left-bollock on it. Apparently it’s what 99% of all burglars do as part of their routine inspection. Makes sense, I ‘spose.

Unknowing to the dip-shit perpetrators, my tenant heard the racket and saw what was happening from an upstairs window overlooking the back garden. She quickly locked herself in the bathroom and dialled 999.

She could hear the scumbags shuffling around downstairs; opening doors, drawers, and cupboards. After a couple of minutes, one of the them walked upstairs and attempted to open the bathroom door (which is the first door you approach at the top of the landing).

I can’t even imagine how terrifying that must have been for my tenant. My heart would have fell out of my ass and I would have keeled over (but then I would have swallowed my heart in-one and punched their faces into an oblivion, obviously)!

After realising the door was locked, the burglar suspected someone was home, so he screamed, “Run, run run”, at which point both cockroaches rapidly dispersed from the scene.

They got away with one pillowcase filled with cash, a TAG Heuer watch, an iPhone, an iPad, and a couple of items of jewellery (one of which was extremely sentimental).

Mother-bloody-A-holes!!!

In the grand scheme of things, it could have been a lot worse. Thankfully no one was hurt and it was over relatively quickly. But I’m still fucking pissed. I don’t care about the possessions that were taken or the inconvenience caused, I care about the fact that there are people in this world that simply don’t give two-shits about anyone other than themselves.

While this sort of crime may seem like an every day occurrence that doesn’t warrant hefty punishment (because of an already clogged up legal and prison system), they can easily impact the lives of the victims in so many haunting ways. What if it was an elderly and frail lady in the property? That could have easily been a life-changing event for her in all the wrong ways.

I could spend forever and a day expressing my frustration, and I could even articulate the medieval torturing tactics I’d deploy on them if they, or any other asshole of similar ilk, were ever to get caught. Without getting too sucked into the fantasy, I will say that my wet-dreams of recent have involved the two perpetrators and the following devices:

First up, the Chair of Torture, also known as the “Judas Chair” – it’s layered with 500 to 1,500 spikes on every surface with tight straps to restrain its victim. Made of iron, it can also contain spaces for heating elements beneath the seat.

The Chair of Torture

Second up, and perhaps my favourite (because of its name), “The Breast Ripper” I don’t know how or where I’d use this on a man, but I’d thoroughly enjoy figuring it out. I’m sure I’ll make it fit somewhere.

Breast Ripper

I’ll stop there, because I’m reluctant to dilute from what I hope to be a somewhat useful blog post that covers practical steps for victims and landlords that are interested in prevention.

My Tenant’s reaction

I wouldn’t have blamed my tenant if she wanted to pack-up her shit and terminate the tenancy immediately, and I would have made her pay every last penny of the rent until the end of the fixed term provided her with nothing other than support.

I can only imagine how emotionally debilitating an incident like that can be on someone. When a home is invaded like that, it’s not surprising when it doesn’t feel like home anymore.

However, despite being on the front-line of danger, my tenant was an absolute mega-super-duper-trooper. Of course, she initially shat her pants and was shaken up by the incident, but after the adrenaline-dump, she just chalked it up as one of those things to live and learn from.

I agree, it is one of those things, but more importantly, the moment we allow garbage to fundamentally affect our lives we end up giving them a lot more than the replaceable material possessions they snatched; we give them something much more valuable, which is control. Fuck that shizzle in the ass.

In the famous words of William Wallace (Braveheart):

Brave Landlord
… tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!

HELL YEAH!! They’ll have to pry my freedom out of my cold, bloody hands! And even then, I’ll be swinging with both arms and all three of my legs!

Building & Contents Insurance

I think this section might be the most useful for landlords, tenants and every occupant, especially for those unfamiliar with the whole process of making a claim after a burglary.

This was actually the first I’ve ever had to make a claim through my landlord insurance. I’m not going to complain, I’ve had an extremely fortunate and good run!

  • Building InsuranceDo landlords actually fail to insure their property, or do they let their policies expiry (intentionally or otherwise)?

    I don’t actually know if they’re real problems or if they just fit my current narrative to make the point, because stupidity of that level is incomprehensible to me. But then again, I’m still frequently reading about slumlords that cram 50 tenants into a 1 bedroom studio flat like sardines. So who knows?

    Anyways, if we allow this incident to teach us just one thing, let it be a reminder of how critical landlord insurance is. It’s your responsibility as the landlord to have – at the very least – building insurance in place.

    If you don’t have a valid policy in place, no judgement (only joking, you’re an absolute tool), sort it out RIGHT NOW! Redeem yourself. Here, get a competitive insurance quote.

    On a serious note, please get your landlord insurance sorted if you don’t have any. It’s quick and easy.

  • Contents Insurance – since it is an unfurnished tenancy, it was my tenant’s responsible to ensure she had suitable contents insurance. Fortunately, she didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday – she was covered.

    She had to complete a spreadsheet with all the stolen items, along with supplying any available receipts and photographic evidence of those items to help legitimise the claims.

  • Notifying insurer – with in 30mins of being on site of the crime scene (which was approx 30mins after the incident took place), I contacted my insurer to notify them of the incident, and I advised my tenant to do the same.

    It’s pretty imperative to notify insurance companies as soon as possible, especially if there are any immediate repairs that need attending to (which there usually is after a forced entry).

  • Emergency repairs – the only critical repair in our case was the smashed glass from the sliding patio doors.

    My insurance company sent someone that night to board it up in order to secure the premises.

    Boarded door

    The door/glass was eventually replaced a couple of days later (the repair was first approved by an insurance assessor that visited the property the day after the incident took place). I was really impressed by the speed of progress.

    Again, this is a reminder of why it is so important to not only have insurance, but to contact the provider ASAP after an incident.

  • Cash – as said, the wank-stains got away with a handful of cash (approx £1000). Unfortunately, my tenant’s insurance policy only covers up to £500 cash. Annoying!

    I did a little research, and apparently £500 cash coverage is pretty standard. Who knew? You can get policies that cover more, but most people end up with the bog-standard £500 because they don’t consciously look for one that covers more.

    Rightly or wrongly so, I personally keep more than £500 cash at home (in a safe), so that prompted me to check my own policy. Yup, I was also only covered up to £500. So I contacted my insurer to increase the amount.

    If you keep cash at home, it might be worth checking your policy to see how much you’re covered for.

Please! Please! Please! I strongly urge all of you to have a look through your insurance policies (both Landlord and Residential) to ensure they meet your requirements and actually cover the reality of your situation.

Police response time!

In the current climate where the police are comically underfunded and getting absolutely obliterated for being a scarce resource to the general public, I just want to give recognition to the incredibly snappy response time my tenant received.

Three separate units (including a sniffer dog) arrived at the property with in 5mins of calling 999. Apparently a response time like that is unheard of in 2019, and you’d be lucky to receive an automated text message, pointing you in the direction of an online guide explaining how to tighten up home security.

The property is located in a small’ish suburban town of Hertfordshire (not far from Stansted airport), so maybe resources aren’t as stretched compared to the national average. Or maybe they were just having a sinfully quiet Tuesday. I’m also guessing because this wasn’t just a standard burglary, but an “aggravated burglary” (because my tenant was inside the house while it was all going down), it made the situation significantly more serious.

Either way, I’m grateful and extremely relieved to see that our defences haven’t gone to complete shit.

My response to the incident (home security improvements)

I personally haven’t been a victim of burglary *touches wood*, so up until now I never really put much thought into the scenario.

I’ve actually arrived at an extremely disheartening realisation, and that is that if someone really wants to break into the average Joe’s house, there’s very little that can be done to prevent it from happening, and the probability of the assholes getting caught is even slimmer. Obviously that’s not a groundbreaking realisation, but I’ve never consciously acknowledged it until now.

Yes, we can make life more difficult by installing security alarms and CCTV, but they’re not bullet-proof solutions, they’re merely obstacles, and the effectiveness of them are pretty questionable. We can all assume that even with those security measures in place, the fuckers’ can mask-up and have ample amount of time to ransack a property and disperse before anyone is even aware of what just took place.

Sad.

But there is also a hopeful reality, which is that anything that can be done to make life more difficult for intruders, even if only marginally, reduces the odds of making our home into a compelling target. With that in mind, and with the desire of not wanting to be an unresponsive landlord (which I think is probably the worst reaction from a landlord in these circumstances), I made the following security enhancements to my tenant’s home:

Security improvements to my tenant’s property

  • Upgraded front door chain – The police inspector that arrived at the scene of the crime said that answering the door to suspicious characters, or at least making it known someone is home (i.e. talking from behind a completely closed door), is one of the best deterrents.

    In no shape or form am I blaming my tenant for anything – she’s 100% the victim (err… unless it’s an inside job. Never really thought of that. But let’s assume it wasn’t!) – but the outcome may have been different if she answered the initial knock on the door.

    So, I replaced the flimsy front door chain with a heavy-duty one, so my tenant feels more comfortable opening the door to strangers. Most of the standard door chains are so flimsy that they’ll probably disintegrate after a slight barge.

  • Fence spikes – I’ve had these fence spikes (Amazon link) installed on the back fence that was used to gain access to the garden. The property is a mid-terrace, so there are neighbouring gardens to the right and left fences, which I think is a defence in itself, so I didn’t install them all the way around.
  • Outdoor motion sensor light – even though burglaries mostly occur during the day, the weakest point of most properties is the back garden, so that’s why I had the Philips MyGarden Creek Outdoor Wall Light with Motion Sensor (Amazon link) installed.
  • Dummy CCTV camera – I can’t justify installing CCTV for my tenants, but someone suggested installing a dummy camera (with a blinking LED). I haven’t done this yet, but it’s something I may do, just as an extra deterrent. They’re pretty cost-effective, £7’ish on Amazon. My only concern is that “professional” burglars will know they’re fake because of how well they seem to be selling!

Besides from trying to make my tenant feel safer at home, I’ve also taken steps to improve my own personal security. Not just by installing and upgrading hardware, but also changing my habits.

This situation has shown me how incredibly complacent I’ve been with my own home security, because it took a breach for me to take it seriously. I think that probably holds true with many people, and obviously that isn’t the best approach. Famous last words: “It will never happen to me.”

Improvements I made to my own home’s security

  • Video doorbell – a few of my friends installed video doorbells quite some time ago, and I know they’re becoming increasingly popular. I opted for the Ring Video Doorbell Pro (Amazon link), which transmits a video feed to Ring’s proprietary phone app when someone presses the bell, and it also automatically starts recording on motion detection.
  • ALWAYS answer the door – Yup, I’m going to answer the door whenever it rings from now on, even if the person on the other side has two front teeth missing and looks dodgy-as-fuck. If no one is home, I can always use the intercom on the new video doorbell, which can also give the impression I’m present (i.e. “Who is it? I’m having a crap, what do you want, boy/girl?”).
  • Fence spikes – I also installed fence spikes around my entire garden.
  • Upgraded front door chain – I also upgraded my door chain to the same heavy duty one I purchased for my tenant.
  • CCTV – I already had 3 CCTV cameras installed, but I’m adding another one to cover a noticeable blind spot in the back garden.
  • “Half set” security alarm at night – when everyone in the household is upstairs at night, I now “half set” the security alarm, which activates all the motion sensors downstairs. From what I’m aware, the “half set” feature is pretty standard on most alarm systems.

    My alarm can be controlled through a phone app, so it’s easy to active/deactivate. I think when anything becomes too laborious, it generally gets tossed out the window. Like my gym membership and putting on a condom before doing the bizz.

  • Park vehicle on driveway – I now always try to ensure there is a vehicle on the driveway (as opposed to my garage) during the day, even when no one is home. Again, to make it seem like someone is home.

    I’m also going to store my car keys in a more secure location, so they’re not easily accessible by someone that’s keen on committing a quick “smash n grab” job.

  • Motion sensors – At the back of my dining room I have sliding patio doors that lead into the back garden. NO ONE ever goes into that room, let alone use the doors to access the garden, so I have installed a motion sensor to the doors that activates an alarm. It was probably the Achilles’ heel of the house.

Future security improvements

  • Internal security/panic room doors – I’ve been looking into internal security doors by a company called Henleys (specifically the ‘Viking door’), which are constructed with a concealed solid steel core, so they’re extremely difficult to break through.

    The idea is that they create a “panic room” type setup, so God forbid that someone forces entry, I can safely lock myself in a room while contacting the police. The problem is they cost an arm, a leg, and fourteen kidneys (starting from £3995 a pop. Lord have mercy, and fuck me sideways)!

    I wouldn’t replace every internal door, but perhaps two of the primary bedrooms and one room downstairs. I’ll let you know after this week’s lottery if it’s a viable option for me. But for now, they’re stacked firmly on the wish-list.

Update: Other recommended home security improvements

As expected, there has been great security improvement suggestions and tips shared in the comments section (besides from the usual suspects e.g. dogs, CCTV, fixing broken gates and fences, using quality locks, garlic necklaces and wooden stakes etc), so I thought I’d list them below:

  • Alfred App (comment #1) – this app allows you to convert your old camera phones as security cameras with low light, motion detection, cloud recording and remote voice transmit. It works off your WiFi and is free (link to app).
  • Yale wireless alarm (comment #2 & #16) – for home security alarms, a couple of people recommended the Yale wireless systems (Amazon link).
  • TV simulator (comment #2) – this cheap and cheerful device makes it look like the TV is on when no one is home (eBay link). I’ve personally ordered one!
  • Anti climb paint (comment #24 & #40) – apply to fences; horrible sticky black tar-like stuff and very difficult to remove from hands or clothes.
  • Signs (comment #40) – “cheap advice”: put a sign on your gate saying ‘Beware of the Dog’ (eBay link), and another sign on the front door, ‘CCTV in Operation’ (eBay link).
  • Local neighbourhood watch groups – someone left a comment on my Facebook page suggesting that joining your local neighbourhood group is useful for sharing information and keeping on top of local crimes! Good tip.

// End of update

So, there we have it. What a terrible situation for anyone to go through, but a productive learning experience and a valuable wake-up call nonetheless. I hope you also managed to extract at least one tiny nugget of useful information from this horrific ordeal, or even better, inspiration to tighten up your personal security, along with your tenants.

For those landlords that have no interest in investing in their tenant’s security, my only advice is to bear in mind the cost of a burglary (including the potential cost of replacing a tenant as a consequence), compared to trying to prevent one from happening. I’m not saying spend a fortune (I didn’t), but I am saying that if you can do anything to make your tenant’s life more secure, it would be a wise investment.

Needless to say, my deepest sympathies goes out to anyone that has been through a similar ordeal.

As said, I’m assuming this isn’t an unusual case, so if anyone wants to share their experience and/or provide further insight/advice, the mic is all yours…

Love & Peace (minus the Judas Chair & Breast Ripper, which I hope eventually get reinstated and put to good use on the deserving people) xoxo

53 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Showing 3 - 53 comments (out of 53)
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Benji 5th February, 2019 @ 08:57

Dogs?

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:16

@Gordon,
Many thanks :)

Ahh, that sound like handy little app. Thanks for the tip. I'm sure others will find that useful, too. Especially those that don't want to splash out on purpose built security cams. Everyone usually has old phones lying around.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:17

@Rob landlord
Great tips!! Thanks for sharing.

That TV simulator is genius! Ordered! :)

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:21

@Benji,
Too much responsibility for me at this point in my life!

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Steve 5th February, 2019 @ 09:27

Hi, I think spikes on a fence are illegal, in case a thief hurts themselves, seriously there was a radio program on this some years ago.

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NotSoNewbieLandlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:32

Thank you for this post, and sorry to hear this happened to you. We moved into a new house four months ago and haven't even done basic things like changing the locks,so I shall sort this out this weekend. I was wondering what could be done about our front door because there is no spy hole so a lot of the time if I was alone in the house I probably wouldn't open the door if it didn't look like a delivery man knocking. Your post has reminded me a security chain is an option, so thank you.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:33

@Steve,
I always thought using barbwire was illegal, I remember hearing something about that ages ago. I'm not actually sure if the spikes I attached are illegal or not, I'm guessing there are guidelines.

But yeah, unbelievable that the safety of the intruders is even a concern!

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NotSoNewbieLandlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:34

Steve that has got to be an urban legend? Who's going to enforce that law? If the police don't have the resources to catch robbers do they really have time to go around making sure people don't have spikes on their fences? 🤔

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paul riley 5th February, 2019 @ 09:37

hi good blog and funny, in the circumstances. catch the bastards rip their genitals off and feed them to them raw !!! anyway don,t know if you can advise, my tenant has died, but left two sons in the house 21 years and 18 years don,t know what the legal position is, but i don,t want the property to become DRUG CENTRAL !!!!. IF POSSIBLE PLEASE ADVISE has this happened to you cheers paul

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:38

@NotSoNewbieLandlord,
Thank you, appreciate it!!

Really good to hear that my experience has encouraged you (and hopefully others) to assess home security! As said in the main post, anything little you can do to make life more difficult for burglars can only be a good thing.

The police advised us that the best thing to do is talk through the door (without opening it) if you're really concerned for your safety.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:40

@NotSoNewbieLandlord
Hah, good point about the police lacking time to monitor fence spikes!

I noticed a lot of the fence spikes are actually marketed as "anti bird spikes", maybe that's a loophole!

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 09:46

@paul riley
Thanks Paul, appreciate it!

Tough situation you're in! I'm honestly not sure what the circumstances are in that situation, but my assumption is that if the deceased was the sole tenancy holder, his sons (who are both over 18) aren't legal occupants, and you may just have a right to evict them (if that's the course of action you want to take).

But if they've been reasonable so far (i.e. taking care of the property and paying rent), you may want to keep them as tenants, in which case, maybe draw up new contracts.

Might be worth doing an inspection (if you haven't done so already).

If you want free legal advice, you could try contacting Legal4Landlords: https://www.propertyinvestmentproject.co.uk/blog/landlord-legal-advice-tenant-problems/

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David 5th February, 2019 @ 10:20

@Landlord

I have been burgled twice, the first time I returned to the property with my brother and all I can say is that the bastards were lucky they had gone because we honestly would have killed them, the first thing we did was take a couple of knives each from the Kitchen. This was really foolish but if you feel your life is in danger you are allowed to use equal and reasonable force to defend yourself.

The second time I felt totally invaded, we put extra locks on but did not feel "safe" until we moved home.

The Police attendance and it's promptness is determined by the chance of them actually making a charge, so if you are in the property and they come in they will be there super quick. I have seen the same thing when a Tenant called the Police saying someone people were attempting to break in and they did not know who they were. (turned out to be a relatives of Landlord - locks had been changed).

It is terrible that these days Police often do not even visit the property, despite the fact that it can be one of the most traumatic non violent crimes to experience and in a place where you need to feel SAFE. The attendance of the Police helps the victim feel safer sooner, but it also helps the Police as they may notice certain aspects of the crime that enable them to identify the villain on past form.

I can actually see a day when there are private firms acting for victims and gathering evidence because the Police do not bother to attend.

I still have things around my home for self defence that would allow me to defend myself and my family. You probably would not get away with a self defence example with a kitchen knife in the bedroom but a Club Hammer and chisel in a toolbox of other tools could be seen as reasonable. It is also hard to defend against two weapons wielded one in each hand.

Whilst on my soap box I find it disgusting that Action Fraud is nothing more than a database with over 99% of cases not even gathering basic things such as IP addresses or structuring the crimes. I have been involved in claims where the most basic investigation produced valuable intelligence.

I do not blame the Police for this, they do what they can with what they have, there are definitely poorly managed forces but the biggest problem is money and connection to Council Tax.

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Vinny 5th February, 2019 @ 10:32

Thanks for sharing this, very useful advice, especially interesting to see it from a landlord's point of view. A couple of things I thought were worth sharing regarding the security tips:

- The spikes you used are pretty good, they don't work well against thick gloves, but they do give the property a kind of 'keep out' impression which goes some way to deterring burglars. There is a grey area of the law on this, if for instance a local kid injured themself, you could (only in theory) get into trouble - so purchase a few of the yellow 'Anti Climb Spikes' signs (eBay is pretty cheap for this) and put up in visible areas near the spikes - just so you give people fair warning that they are there. No issues then.

- A really good device which would have stopped those guys in their tracks is a wireless Yale alarm system, they are really easy to fit, and you can carry a mobile panic button - when you hit this, the alarm goes off - this can usually be enough to scare off intruders. Your tenant could have locked themselves in the bathroom then just whacked the button and sent them running - the screaming noise from the control panel is very painful to the ears.

- I live on a corner plot which backs onto a road and it's difficult to secure - I planted anti-intruder plants around the perimeter which deters burglars and local kids from climbing on the fence - they are a nightmare to go anywhere near and are very painful if you fall in them. Particularly good ones are Gorse, Pyracantha/Firethorn, and my favourite - Mahonia Japonica (basically holly on steroids - evergreen, an absolute nightmare for intruders, and looks great all year round and keeps the nasties away). You can get them pretty big and cheap from garden centres or eBay.

Keep the posts coming - great reading. Thanks!
Vinny

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 10:38

@David
Damn, sorry to hear that you've been through it twice! Once is too many! I can completely understand why you couldn't feel safe until you moved.

Completely agree with everything you said, especially regarding the importance of the police visiting the victims so they feel safe(r).

I have a golf club next to bed just because of the range it gives ha. It really is like a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" when choosing [legal] self-defence weapons of choice!

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 10:43

@Vinny
Ahh, thanks for clarifying on the spikes (not sure if you read previous comments where they were mentioned). Really good to know!

You're the second person that mentioned the wireless Yale Alarm (Rob mentioned it, comment #2). I'm definitely going to look into them. I love recommendations like that, because it's often how you find the best products!

Thanks again!

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BogBeast 5th February, 2019 @ 11:36

As far insurance, good points. I suppose I would seriously think about upgrading my landlord insurance to cover tenant contents, but I guess my faith in human nature has yet to reach those giddy heights.. Especially considering the contents of the blog post.

Anyway. As far as home invasion, which does concern me, whilst I would deeply like to shoot any home invaders, the legal practicalities are somewhat complicated and it would take a while for me to get my shotgun out of the cabinet which no doubt will always be in the ‘wrong’ room when the scrotes come battering their way in.

So, something like https://www.amazon.co.uk/Personal-Defence-Farbgel-Emergency-Lanyard might be more appropriate. Criminal Identifier sprays, not pleasant (by the looks of it), non-harming (shame..) and with the benefit of seriously marking the toerags. Should the plod turn up, a tour of the neighbourhood would make said wasters immediately obvious. Cheap enough that it might make a nice value add for the tenant. Or course, that does not telegraph great thing about the location of your house…

Or a paintball gun, I will be getting a paintball gun for myself…

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Nige 5th February, 2019 @ 11:48

Most naughty people are opportunists. They say that the time in the property is about 20 seconds. Then again I have had tenants play the insurance fraud game. In one case the broken glass mysteriosly fell into the garden. The plasma screen TV (which used to cost the same as a car ) had the screen cracked. Someone pointed out that the TV was not the one that they had in the house !!! The tenant of course could no longer stay in the property and moved out immediately. Thats one way of avoiding giving notice !!!

I agree that many of the methods are good deterrants. There is one that is overlooked. the new LED light bulbs use virtually nothing in the way of power. Leaving my kitchen lights on (6 spotlights) uses 24 watts or approx 1 unit of 14p electricity per 40 hours. That is a damn sight cheaper than complicate systems. Add a couple of other 3-5 watt bulbs left on in other rooms constantly is cheaper than a bottle of flash to clean up the mess.

Break ins can almost seem funny !! I had someone carefully remove the glass from my window (timber frames) and stack it neatly in the garden with the beading. (He was caught when his mother turned him in because he was covered in butyl mastic which was used to bed the glass in) A friend bought a house and it was broken into FIVE years later by the old owner !!

I hear one of the latest scams is the wearing of fluorescent jackets. Who questions someone who makes themselves obvious poking around a property and appearing to be from the council/water board/electricity etc.

Maybe I am fortunate enough to be old and my neighbours are all long standing so we tend to SPEAK to each other. SPEAK !!!!! Is that a dirty word these days. We have a good balance between watching who should or should not be around our houses and looking after neighbours houses when they are away.

The best thing I heard on TV the other day was.... ''How come when a serious break in or mugging happens they can never find the criminal. But when you stray into a bus lane or exceed 30mph you get the fine in the post within 2 days''

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Steve 5th February, 2019 @ 11:54

Hi again, the “bird spikes” for fences are plastic I believe. Not a deterrent? The Local Authority in London threatened
to take wall owner to court unless spikes ( actually glass on top of 300 year old wall) were removed. The glass....spikes are the same....was on the wall for hundreds of years, and was listed!

So a burglar definitely has a right to break in without hurting themselves.So just leave your door open but make sure he is safe.

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philip knight 5th February, 2019 @ 12:17

I would suggest thorny plants such as rose bushes as a less unsighlty deterrent to the fence spikes, although obviously they will take a while to grow to the point where the bush is physically inpenetrable unless they are so determined that they brought secateurs to cut their way through it. As you say, if the burglar is determined enough they can probably get through your defences.

Also bear in mind that you are legally responsible for the safety of your trespassers. You could face civil litigation if the poor little things hurt themselves on the spikes ably assisted by a no win-no fee ambulance chasing lawyer.

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EGC 5th February, 2019 @ 12:20

Thankfully no break in on our students property yet although the area is certainly being done over. Insurance asked if we had a burglar alarm and when I said no but thestudents are thinking about it the insurer pointed out that it would need to have regular servicing.
Our road had a two week spate of break ins before Christmas. They seemed to mostly be for car keys to steal the cars. One was an upstairs bedroom window ie evading the alarm and had been preceded by a drone hovering over the house the week before presumably doing research. We have formed a what's app group and the police have been seen at the ends of the road occasionally hanging around at midnight.
So leaving the car on the drive probably depends on whether your car is worth stealing.

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Smithy 5th February, 2019 @ 12:37

Interview on TV some time ago with a reformed burglar - he was asked what is the best deterrent.
He said "get a dog". If you don't want a real one, get a recording of a dog barking that sounds when your door bell is pressed.

There was also comment that neighbours ignore the sound of a house alarm going off - to which he replied that the one person who does hear it is the burglar, and he will scarper.

A problem with barbed wire/glass/spikes round your fence - or booby-trapping your house - is that the next person that has to come in could be a fire fighter.

We had a problem with a fence next to a school - the pupils used to climb over into our garden and out the front gate, as it was a short cut. We bought anti-vandal paint. The shop said not to put it on top of the fence because birds get stuck to it - but to paint a band along the fence about 3" down. It's horrible sticky black tar-like stuff and very difficult to remove from hands or clothes. Intruders are not likely to want it on their designer jeans.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 13:08

@BogBeast (ha, nice handle),

I personally don't think it's entirely necessary to provide contents insurance for unfurnished properties, but I don't it's a bad move! Definitely a nice advantage for the tenant!

Ahh, I've actually seen that paint spray before, but my only concern with that is that you have to be pretty close to the toerags, which alone might be quite dangerous. So I'd prefer the paintball gun solution. The powerful ones are pretty excruciating! One of those fired straight in between the eyes will do the job nicely!

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 13:13

@Nige
Yeah, I also try to leave lights on around the house. That TV simulator someone mentioned also seems like a good deterrent, especially if used on a timer (for when on holiday).

Good point about people in fluorescent jackets. We instinctively give them authority!

Hah, I think I heard that line as well, I can't remember what I was watching though.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 13:17

@Steve
I have seen steel bird spikes on Amazon. In any case, this seems to be a bit of a grey/unclear topic of discussion.

Honestly, I can't believe we have to be concerned about the safety of intruders. Drives me bonkers!

Ignorance is truly bliss in this case :)

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Bigmax 5th February, 2019 @ 13:19

Excellent blog as always landlord …we have been burgled at home twice - first time they came through the patio door in daylight and kindly wiped their feet on our lounge carpet so they didn’t make a mess…(obviously well brought up!)…..they then calmly had sat in the room next to the front porch, in full view and discerningly sorted through our booze cupboard - leaving behind the ones they didn’t like!!! There is no hope when they are this brazen. They were caught and charged but I lost my engagement ring and various jewellery that I hadn’t warn to work that day.

Second time we were on holiday they climbed over a wall into the back garden and forced the kitchen window – didn’t get anything as the alarm must have gone off – so that worked – but none of the neighbours took any notice – it was the person picking up our post that found it!!

The police said there is very little you can do to stop the determined burglar, just make life hard for them.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 13:22

@philip knight,

I'm starting to think there's more money in getting spiked while climbing over a wall than the actual robbery itself! I wouldn't be surprised if we confuse a lot of burglars with professional con men looking for a litigation battle!

My spikes will remain. See you in court :)

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 13:35

@EGC,

Ahh, so is the insurance policy not valid if the alarm isn't serviced?

Interestingly, I was talking to my mum last night and she mentioned a spike in car jackings. Apparently there are now mechanisms that can replicate modern keys (or at least, copy the information needed from the original key) just by being near them, and then it's possible to use that information to unlock vehicles.

You can get "car key signal blockers" (on Amazon) that are meant to prevent it from happening. But they seem impractical for anyone normal that has a chain of keys!

I try to keep my car keys hidden away when at home now. I used to just hang them up in the hallway as soon as I walked into my home.

I have a driveway and it's overseen by a lot of neighbours, so I think it's pretty risky for anyone to attempt a car jacking during the day. At night the cars in the garage.

The fight against scumbags is never ending and constantly evolving!

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 13:51

@Smithy
Haha, almost seems comical to have a dog barking sound triggered with the doorbell!

I'd like a dog (not just for the safety aspect), but it just wouldn't be fair on it, because I don't have the time to give it the attention it deserves.

I think most people are numb to alarms. I hear car alarms go off on a daily basis, and I don't even flinch, because I just assume it's a false alarm (which it is in 99.9999% of cases).

I hear what you're saying about blocking access for legitimate reasons, but I think it depends on the actual property/layout. In my particular case, for various reasons, I don't think my spikes will stop legitimate access.

Ha, the sticky paint sounds like a very annoying obstacle and an absolute nightmare for designer jeans. Do you know how long the paint stays active (sticky) for? Does it need reapplying over time?

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 14:21

@Bigmax,

Thanks BM, appreciate it.

Ouch, twice! Sorry to hear that. At least they caught them, but I'm scared to know what their punishment was. Probably a couple of hours of community service.

Sorting through your booze cupboard... not surprising bearing in mind the type of people we're dealing with. Of course, for anyone normal, absolutely ridiculous.

"The police said there is very little you can do to stop the determined burglar, just make life hard for them." - yup, seems to be the general consensus!

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EPS501 5th February, 2019 @ 15:14

Yikes! So glad your tenant was OK, so lucky she could get to the bathroom and lock herself in!
The location of your property is pretty to close to mine and there has been a further wave of burglaries since last year and a few people I know have been extremely unlucky to be targeted. The result is that I have installed a security system at my own home which is also controlled by an app so all good. And yes, the Police has said the same that you cannot prevent burglars 100% but you can slow them down. They also recommend laying crunchy gravel paths where possible.

I was further motivated by the security company's offer of a discount for purchases for other properties so I shopped around. The Hive camera looks pretty easy and seems to be enough to do the job especially since they also offered me a discount being a very good (= already paying British Gas lots of money!) existing customer. So I am looking to install as soon as possible.
I mean it should help to reduce buildings/contents insurance a bit the fact that you have cctv and makes your property more attractive being more secure for tenants. So win win!
In my case, the cctv would also hopefully deter people parking in my tenants' designated car park space and/or dumping rubbish where they shouldn't.
Well the thing about parking your car on drive is that if it's too expensive then it can serve as an invitation to more valuables inside the house, that's my worry.
I never keep any amount of cash at home.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 15:41

@EPS501,

Yeah, I'm so grateful she came through it unscathed, both physically and emotionally!

I think in most cases the victims are just unlucky targets. The police told me that most burglaries are committed by opportunists' that walk/drive past properties that have a set of key weaknesses at that moment. That may include an empty driveway, a particularly quiet road etc, and the chances are, in a lot of the cases those same roads are often busy, and those driveways are often occupied.

In my tenant's case, if she wasn't running late she may have opened the door when someone knocked, in which case the incident may never have occurred.

I was also looking at the Hive alarm systems. It was a toss-up between Hive and Ring when I was looking at my video doorbell. Both companies have their own security "environments", so you can keep adding/evolving your security with more and more of their gadgets. That's what I liked about them.

I hear what you're saying about nice cars potentially inviting more trouble. But there could be the same argument for CCTVs and security alarms - why would anyone heighten their security if they had nothing to protect?

I think my driveway is quite safe during the day (I hope to God I haven't just jinxed myself), so I'd rather leave it on the driveway to give the impression of someone being home, as opposed to protecting my car in the garage. I think the best solutions/practises ultimately depend on individual circumstances.

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The Landlord 5th February, 2019 @ 15:57

The comments/tips have been great so far. I'm definitely going to act on some of them.

Thanks for all the feedback people!

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andrewa 5th February, 2019 @ 16:52

Advice from the South African police who attended our last burglary ( burglars used a hydraulic jack to open the burglar bars - think jail windows - on our bedroom window just far enough to get in after greasing himself thoroughly and taking off all his clothes. He somehow woke up my wife ,a light sleeper - who can kickstart an 850cc Norton Commando first time - she managed to punch him twice in the face before he got back through the hole he had made in the burglar bars and ran away) was shoot to kill. The reason for telling us to shoot to kill is if the burglar is dead he cannot then perjure himself in court to say he was in your bedroom to ask for a job. The other advice was not to give the police a statement they can present in court to prove you a liar when your memory fails you. So if you do belt and injure someone with your golf club landlord, remember NOT A WORD TO PLOD WITHOUT TALKING TO YOUR LAWYER FIRST!!!!

I think the way it works in the UK (at least if you are Cressida Dick) is to claim you imagined he was a terrorist. After having a man publicly executed for the dastardly crime of catching a tube train whilst she dreamt he was a terrorist she got promoted to head of the Met!

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Rob landlord nw 5th February, 2019 @ 17:39

On the home defence front I have difficulty getting to cob webs on my landing at the highest point, I just can't reach it. For this reason alone I have a 2ft length of thick broom handle that I use to knock them down, I keep it in the bedroom.

I do take the view I'd rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6, but having a weapon is pre meditated, using a stick I use for something else is just heat of the moment.

Don't do what my freind did, he wrote "The Stick Of Death" on his in gothic lettering. I can just imagine the posh prosecutor announcing exhibit 2, the stick of death.

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Jenn 5th February, 2019 @ 18:00

Thanks for this article and all the interesting comments. Heartfelt sympathy sent for your tenant and to anyone who experiences home invasion. Interestingly as I was reading this article someone rung my front door bell and I leapt up t and answered it much more cautiously than I usually do.
As someone who frequently forgets to shut, let alone lock the front door. I feel lady luck must me shining down upon me. Potential burglars probably think I must be about as the door is open. We do live in a very remote situation with neighbours always at home and I am nearly always at home too. Plus we have very little to take no cash, jewellery etc. also access to our property would have to be from behind and that would involve a hike across several fields, with ditches and fences.
We do have ring installed tho, and I cannot recommend this enough, it's great fun to watch who arrives and if I do happen to be at the bottom of our garden I can see immediately who is at the front door.
I also like the fact that most delivery companies now notify you of who is delivering and when.
With regard to burglar alarms, we have did inherit one, but we don't use it because the cats will set it off, how daft is that.
Our tenants have chains and burglar alarms.

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Rachel 5th February, 2019 @ 18:22

I had tenants who faked a burglary and tried to persuade me to make a claim, in the belief that my insurance would cover their possessions, including thousands in cash. The police attended but sadly failed to notice that there was no plausible evidence of a break-in, and that the neighbours' version of events was very different to the tenants' version. They issued an incident number but there was no follow-up. Once the tenants found I couldn't make a claim on their behalf and would anyway not commit a fraud "& take a commission", they recovered very quickly from the trauma. People too stupid to take out their own insurance before faking a burglary! I evicted them asap.
It was a useful exercise looking at what they claimed had happened, which was physically impossible, and what the actual weak points in the property were.

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Smithy 6th February, 2019 @ 05:26

Re: anti climb paint - it stays sticky for ages - never really dries. It will deter climbing up anything - walls, posts etc. Neighbour caught one boy with the paint on his hands and tracksuit, saying "My mum's going to kill me ...". We can but hope.

On a different subject - work colleague was burgled - all wife's jewellery was taken from her jewellery box in the bedroom. Police said that a jewellery box - often in plain sight - is a dead giveaway for the burglar. All the valuables in one place - they just pick it up and put it straight in the pillowcase.

Re: dogs. Almost all my tenants have dogs (the 'no-pets' bit of the tenancy agreement seems to pass them by) including a 75 year old lady who has two staffies. Both dogs are big daft softies - I do bribe them with dog-treats when I go round in case I ever have to go in when she's not there. But they are definitely big - and I don't know how they would react to a stranger - I don't think anyone would try to go in after they saw these two jumping up at the window.

And really cheap advice - put a sign on your gate saying 'Beware of the Dog'. And another sign on the front door 'CCTV in Operation'. Are the burglars going to risk that you might not be telling the truth?

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The Landlord 6th February, 2019 @ 09:15

@andrewa
Holy moly, that's quite the story!

You got to be determined if you're willing to pry open burglar bars with a hydraulic jack! I assume bars are common in SA? And your wife... what a woman!

Hah, thanks for the legal advice. I won't say a word (after I've struck an intruder down with my golf club!) :)

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The Landlord 6th February, 2019 @ 09:20

@Rob landlord
lol @ the stick of death. Was it painted on with blood?

Yeah, I agree with your comment about a weapon being pre meditated. Your intent could be questioned if anything does happen. Plus, I'm really not a violent person and I really wouldn't want to inflict serious pain on anyone unless I really had to.

I think general household items, like a broom, stick, golf club etc. are sensible options.

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The Landlord 6th February, 2019 @ 09:32

@Jenn,
Thanks Jenn, appreciate it. Yeah, the comments have been eye-opening and very useful!

To be honest, I live in quite a rural and remote location too, where my neighbours are often home (because they're retired).

I had a "it will never happen to me" mentality (not saying you do), so that was a tell-tale sign that I had become way too complacent. From what I'm hearing, burglaries are incredibly common these days, so I don't want to take any chances, so if that means spending a little time and money on reducing the odds of being a victim, then I'm happy to (even if I'm an unlikely target).

I don't know if there is a genuine crisis and spike in burglaries, or if it's always been like this, and I'm just currently paying attention to the issue because of my recent experience.

Jenn, please, for crying out loud, lock/shut that flipping door :)

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The Landlord 6th February, 2019 @ 09:35

@Rachel,

Haha, what a pair of knuckle-heads.

Honestly, I bet that's a common scam among tenants.

It's actually a good reason for landlords not to get contents insurance (if the property isn't furnished).

Thanks for sharing, amusing!

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The Landlord 6th February, 2019 @ 09:42

@Smithy

Hahah! Brilliant.

I don't have much jewellery, but my mum does, and she's always preached and practised spreading valuables around the house, so there isn't one 'pot of gold', so to speak.

Yeah, the police also mentioned using fake signs like the ones you mentioned. Very cheap trick!

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EPS501 6th February, 2019 @ 09:44

@ Smithy

re: jewellery box - great note about it - reminded me our local police advised to not keep the whole loot together but if you must at least find an unexpected place to put it.

re: I have actually considered this as I haven't got and do not plan on getting a dog! Knowing my luck a random burglar would see through it.

re: cctv stickers - my cameras are real alright - see above comment!

A neighbour who was recently broken into was on a morning school run - I have consciously varied my daily routine - smashed in her downstairs window or kitchen door glass.

A friend1 got her front door smashed in in broad daylight no less, nothing of any value was taken because there was nothing, cost her insurance a stack of money to replace the front door and surrounding walls.

A friend2 had the lock on her sliding patio door forced. The police think they elected not to smash the glass as it was nosier and riskier for injuring themselves.

The police also advised keeping ordinary vigilance in noticing anything unusual in your area, parked cars/vans/people ...

My tenants once demanded (really) I pay for their locks to be changed (I already did before they moved in of course) because they had electronic items go missing. Once I began to question their reasons, it became obvious they had given copies of keys to 2 other individuals and admitted not (never!) to using both sets of locks. I suggested they use both locks every time and politely declined to replace them.

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The Landlord 6th February, 2019 @ 09:48

Speaking of which, I think it's a legal requirement to display a "CCTV in operation" sign if you actually have CCTV.

I remember that's what the security company that fitted my cameras said, so that's why I have one on my front window.

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EPS501 6th February, 2019 @ 09:58

@ The Landlord

Yes, it is a legal requirement. However, the security peeps told me as long as you have one displayed in sight you're covered, doesn't have to be massive or on every window. Basically, you need to be able to point to the sticker/sign it's there, not my fault if you (burglar) didn't see it...

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andrewa 7th February, 2019 @ 09:08

Landlord, the functionality is in the name of the device, golf CLUB! Use one with a carbon fibre handle, it hits balls further :)

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Carole 7th February, 2019 @ 13:26

Thanks for the article and helpful comments from others on security. I don't think it's safe for a woman on her own to answer the door. A spyhole and bright sensor light is better. I once answered the door and the unknown man said "Penny for Hallowe'en?" Strange enough comment but it was in fact the 30th October. I shut the door immediately (very shaken) but I could still see him standing there through the obscured glass. Fortunately my husband was in and the man ran off when he came to the door. I dread to think.

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The Landlord 7th February, 2019 @ 14:10

@Carole
Yeah, I completely agree.

Generally speaking, I don't think "opening" the door (even with a chain lock) is completely safe in that situation, so I'd rather endorse the approach of talking via an intercom (i.e. video door ball), or just speaking behind a closed door.

I think the main objective should be to "safely" notify strangers that someone is present!

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Henry 15th February, 2019 @ 20:33

Great article with useful comments. Two of mine:

Insurance... I get my insurance (Landlord and personal) through a broker, not direct. They advised that the premiums can INCREASE if you: say you are part of a neighbourhood watch; or have a burglar alarm. Reason is that property thus appears to be in a less safe area. So I don't disclose the alarm, though I use it when I am out. Neighbourhood Watch folded a few years ago so.

Valuables stolen... This happened when I was young. My mother was out, father working in the attached garage with the garage door open. House broken into while I was a baby in bed and asleep. Canny father took mother around pawn shops in the nearest big towns (pawn shops have come back these days). They were able to spot many of their valuables (mother's jewellery) in those shops windows, identify them and get them back as stolen goods.
Particularly good if items are of sentimental value / not easily replaced via insurance.

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The Landlord 18th February, 2019 @ 11:36

@Henry,

Thanks, appreciate it :)

I've never heard of premiums increasing for those reasons!! Jesus. I might test it out next time I have a policy that's due for renewal! It just makes me think that insurers can increase premiums no matter what the situation, because any other broker might advise the complete opposite, and that would also make sense.

Glad to hear your mum/dad managed to recover a lot of the items, but I'd be surprised if many people have such luck!

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