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Home guards that secure cut-price deals on cover

INSURANCE claims for burglaries have fallen by 14 per cent so far this year, according to figures just released by the Association of British Insurers, reflecting insurers' greater em- phasis on home security. The benefit is being passed on to home owners through larger discounts if they install approved security equipment.

In recent years, insurers have offered a wider and more generous range of discounts to householders who are at lower risk of burglary. This can mean that older home owners, who are more often at home than others, pay less, as do other households where someone is normally at home during the daytime, when most burglaries take place. Premium discounts for burglar alarms, window locks and heavy-duty door locks are usually available to policy-holders.

The most ambitious programme for improved home security is being introduced jointly by General Accident and NT Access, manufacturer of Legge locks.

Discounts on home contents premiums of up to 40 per cent are available to policy-holders who live in areas with Neighbourhood Watch schemes and accept tailored advice on home security. They can also buy Legge locks through GA at reduced price through bulk-purchase.

GA has not publicised its scheme, which is not yet available across the country. It was introduced in the North-east and South-east in June and will be extended to the final area, the South-west, in November. Most GA policy-holders are unaware of the project, which will generally only be conveyed to them upon policy renewal.

Implementation depends on the co-operation of local insurance brokers, who are often unaware of Neighbourhood Watch schemes, and who may therefore fail to contact some eligible policy-holders.

In some areas, where brokers are willing to take on the extra work, lower premium discounts are on offer to policyholders who do not live in Neighbourhood Watch areas, but who do take advice on security improvements.

Trevor Ansell, GA's manager for Neighbourhood Watch, said: "We offer heavy discounts, the size of which is decided at branch level. The beauty is that we carry out a security check on each property. We would like to do the same outside Neighbourhood Watch areas, but we need brokers to resource the service, and lots of support from the police to promote Neighbourhood Watch schemes.

"An alarm only warrants a small discount, because it is not much use without the back-up of a Neighbourhood Watch. Someone holding the key will notify the police, which is not likely to happen somewhere else, and the alarm will just ring and ring, which is not much of a deterrent."

It is important for home owners to contact insurers before fitting new security equipment, to ensure that it is of the highest standard, and also to obtain premium discounts. Most insurers will only give discounts on premiums if alarms are fitted by installers approved by the industry regulator, the National Approval Council of Security Systems.

Once an alarm system is fitted and premium discounts are obtained, the policy may be invalidated if an alarm is not armed when the house is unoccupied, or when occupants have gone to bed, and either claims may not be met or an additional excess will be imposed.

The same applies if a burglar alarm is not maintained each year by a Nacoss-registered operator.

Alarms will give householders an added sense of protection, but will not recover their cost through premium reductions.

Insurance Neigh'hood Alarm from Window & Age of

company watch approved door locks insured scheme installer to standard

Commercial Union 15%

Co-op Insurance No discounts, but will waive pounds 50 excess

Direct Line 2.5% up to 10% 5%

Eagle Star 5% 15% up to 20%

General Accident up to 40% 5% if both criteria are met 15%

Guardian 7.5 %

Norwich Union 5% 5% 5%

Royal Insurance* 10% 10% 5% 15%

Sun Alliance 5% 5% 5% 10%

*Extra 15% discount available if householder is at home during daytime.

Discounts for security measures