Inspections, alarms and security requirements

For an unoccupied property insurance policy, typically an insurance company will set a maximum number of days between visits to the property. This usually starts at a visit every 7 days, increasing to every 14, 21 & 30 days depending on the insurer and the nature of the property they are insuring.

In order to comply with the insurers policy conditions you will need to log the details of the visit to the property. In the event of a claim the insurers will very likely employ the services of a loss adjuster who will visit you at the property. The loss adjuster will inspect your property inspection log and probably take a copy of this to ensure that you have complied with the policy requirements.

It is essential that you comply with these inspection conditions, keeping the inspection log as required under the terms of your policy. Failure to keep the written log will mean that you are in breach of the policy conditions and your claims will likely be repudiated.

Having a claim declined can be a very costly event as it could be declined over something minor, such as spray paint daubed over some walls, or something far more serious such as an arson attack which destroys a building. The inspection requirements of an insurer policy wording for an unoccupied property are there for a reason. Fundamentally, the insurers want for there to be no incidents as obviously you would do as it is your property. The inspection warranty which is on your policy however, is there for a reason and if you breach them, don’t expect your claim to be paid.

Security Requirements
Security requirements are pretty common place on general insurance policies and often be found lurking in the small print. Your insurance broker or insurer however should point out these security requirements as they are a key part of the contract of insurance. The thing to remember about any insurance policy is that it is a contract and you should read all contracts, whether they are the terms and conditions of a travel agent, or the finer points of an insurance policy – you need to know what you are buying !

Many insurance policies have what is commonly known as a ‘minimum security requirements’ or ‘minimum security warranty’. These will usually contain the following requirements;-

Final exit doors – must be fitted with a 5 lever mortise deadlock conforming to BS3621 – take note here, it is BS3621 and not BS2621, there’s a difference !

Patio doors – would need locking mechanisms top and bottom plus one in the centre of the door.

French doors – would usually needs to have a lock top and bottom on the second opening leaf and a 5 lever mortise deadlock conforming to BS3621 on the first opening leaf.

Window locks – would need to be fitted on all ground floor windows and accessible upper floor windows. Remember fanlight windows are included in this too, and check the policy because some security wordings insist that every window in the property is fitted with window locks, ground floor, upper floors and those not accessible from the ground – so beware.

Understand what you are buying and the implications of it. Don’t think that it doesn’t matter because a window is too small to climb through. It wont be too small that you cannot push a burning rag through the broken paine of glass.

And, another warning too – when the insurance policy says a ‘window lock’ it means exactly that – a key operated window lock, not a window catch or a grill or bar or a sheet of marine ply !

What if you don’t comply with the security requirements of the insurer ?

You have two choices.

1) Either make sure your property does comply and as soon as possible, as you probably won’t be correctly insured. Tell your insurer if you cannot fit the additional security straight away. So, if you have asked a locksmith to fit some additional locks ‘next week’ then tell them what you have arranged. If you are having new glazing installed in 2 months time which will comply and you don’t want to upgrade the security in the meantime then tell the insurer. They may impose a higher excess, a co-insurance clause on theft and malicious damage. The key is to let them know the position so that if there is an incident at the property then at least they will be aware of the situation regarding security and even if you have to pay a higher excess then it is better than having no cover at all.

2) If your property doesn’t ‘fit’ the security requirements of the insurer and you have an improved security situation at your property or an equivalent – then tell the insurer. For example, you may have crittall style windows which are notoriously difficult to find locks for, or leaded light windows which are not worth fitting locks to. In this situation you may have fitted an intruder alarm system to the property which incorporates space protection over the windows concerned. Your insurer may accept this as a compromise and say you don’t need to have window locks. Whatever you agree with the insurer – get it in writing ! You need to have a revised policy schedule which deleted the requirement for window locks on the basis that you have the intruder alarm set etc, etc.

Advice on buying locks – In a nutshell, always buy the best. The writer has lost count of how many times he has seen a commercial premises with tens, or hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stock, secured with a £20.00 padlock from a DIY ‘shed’. Union (previously known as Chubb) have a good range, have a look online a their high security padlocks. Alternatively the (no longer produced) Chubb Cruiser or the more expensive Chubb Battleship are approx. £80.00 to £120.00 respectively and are still available. These locks are vastly superior to the ‘insurance approved’ locks you can pick up from the DIY sheds at £30.00

The same rule applies to window locks, French door locking bolts, patio door locks, 5 lever mortise deadlocks etc. Again, Union (Chubb) are more expensive but they are worth it because they are better. You get what you pay for, and that rule certainly applies when buying locks.

Intruder alarms
The presence of an intruder alarm system can deter potential intruders and those intents on causing criminal damage. To be a truly effective tool, somebody needs to be alerted to the alarm activation and be able to act upon it.

There are four main types of intruder alarm signalling methods which are as follows;-

1 A mains powered control panel with hard wired or wireless links to the alarm detectors and a simple internal sounder and external bell box.

2 A system as above but with remote signalling to the nominated persons via SMS text messaging or speech / voice dialler. Systems using the GSM network are preferable are they are no vulnerable to the local telephone lines being cut.

3 A system as above but with coded signals sent to a 24/7 manned alarm monitoring station who will then, in turn, contact the nominated persons. The nominated persons could either be the intruder alarm company or the owner of the property.

4 A system as above but where the monitoring station can request a Police response to ‘Qualifying Activations’ which would be activations triggered when the alarm has sequential verification.

Buying an intruder alarm system is a decision that needs to be taken carefully, due principally to the number of systems available, the different types of firms that can install them and the varying levels of ‘protection’ they offer.

It is always preferable to have an intruder alarm system installed by a company who is a member of the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or SSAIB.

By dealing with an NSI or SSAIB approved firm you will have the reassurance that the design and specification of the system is suitable for your requirements. Also, if you have a situation when an insurance company requires an intruder alarm system to be installed after an incident then they will usually specify it needs to be an NSI or SSAIB approved company that carries out the installation and maintenance of the system.

It is worth bearing in mind that if you select an installation company that is not NSI or SSAIB approved then you run the risk of the system not being suitable if there is an incident and your insurers may require an improved system. Some systems may not be of a suitable standard to be taken over by an NSI / SSAIB company which will incur additional expense in upgrading or replacing your system.

It is worth spending money on an intruder alarm system, the same advice applies to that of buying locks, you get what you pay for. It is worth seeking out a local independent supplier of alarms (NSI or SSAIB preferably) to get a quote. From experience, they are easier to deal with. It is also worth looking at a couple of National firms, sometimes they offer promotions which are worthwhile. As with everything however, look out for installation costs, call out costs, maintenance costs, monitoring costs etc.