The final stage of unlocking is just around the corner. But more socialising and freer travel will also bring more road accidents and burglaries. Lockdowns have been a boon for the insurance industry. Motor insurers enjoyed a windfall last year as empty roads saw claims plummet.
They have even been passing some of those savings onto drivers: Compare the Market reports that the average car-insurance premium fell to £629 between April and June this year. That is the lowest quarterly level since 2015 and £126 cheaper than before the first lockdown.
Yet the era of falling premiums “is about to come to a screeching halt”, says Emma Dunkley in The Mail on Sunday. Claudio Gienal, the boss of insurer AXA UK, says traffic levels are already back to pre-pandemic levels. “He predicts the number of cars on the road is going to accelerate rapidly” after 19 July.
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Meanwhile, Churchill Home Insurance says that there were 100,000 fewer reported UK burglaries in 2020, a 27% fall, as people were trapped at home. Nonetheless, the average cost of home cover rose by 5% last year to £177.29, reports Compare the Market. The industry says that “although we may no longer be being robbed… we are breaking or setting fire to more things”, says David Byers in The Sunday Times. It’s a dubious excuse.
As James Daley of Fairer Finance points out, “accidental damage is not included as standard in most home-insurance policies”. Using the rise in self-inflicted combustion to justify baseline premium hikes looks unreasonable.
Burglaries will bounce
These are hard times for criminals. Ed Magnus on This is Money reports that the average burglar is thought to have lost £12,954 last year as robbing and thieving became less lucrative. A “burglary bounce” is expected as we spend more time out of doors, so it’s time to “turn your home into a fortress”.
Install reliable door locks – “cylinder locks”, commonly found on UPVC doors, can be snapped in seconds. Basic Yale locks are also not much of a challenge for a thief. New property owners should change all the locks: you have no idea how many keys are in circulation for the current ones. Think about putting a few lights on a timer if you are going away, and don’t post your holiday snaps on social media until you get back home.
New technology offers extra ways to keep your house safe, says Colin Baker in The Sunday Times. A keyless door lock is not too expensive and will convince opportunists that “you’ve got the place wired like Nasa”. Video doorbells are even better. When someone rings, a smartphone app alerts you and begins to record: “You can talk to the caller as though you’re just busy out the back or upstairs, no matter where you are in the world”.
There are downsides to being too tech-heavy, though, says James Max in the Financial Times, who was burgled last year. Remembering “all the codes and keeping track of the keys and fobs” can be a “kerfuffle”.
Electric security gates are said to add 5% to a property’s value, yet “they have been nothing but trouble. The remotes use batteries that are impossible to find in most high-street shops… And you will need a PhD in computer science if you want to ‘pair’ them with your car”. A slug found its way into the circuit board, frazzling both itself and the gates.
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