Getting locked out of your house

One of the things to prepare for is very commonplace: what to do when we lock ourselves out of our house or flat. Its so simple to do, and its simple to remedy, as well – it just takes time, that’s all. I locked myself out a few days ago, so my knowledge of the basics is bang up to date….

I thought I had it all covered, I confess. Two people I trust have keys to my house, and I have a key safe too. But all the keys belonged to the door that I replaced a couple of years ago – none of them were relevant to the new uPVC door that I’d installed. This was a shock.

I’d been out for the evening and got a lift home with a friend, who stood by while I turned my bag upside down and inside out in my front garden, by the light of our torches, and confirmed that none of the “emergency” keys fit the new lock. So there was no option but to call for a locksmith. Neither of us are web-enabled on our smartphones, but at least we could call a friend who was enabled, so she found us a 24 hour locksmith. Who couldn’t get a reply from any of their locksmiths, though they did at least keep phoning to update me. Quite a problem.

All I did was stay over with the friend who’d given me a lift, get a coach back to my own town the next day, and find a locksmith that would come out in the morning. The job took 30 seconds once they arrived, it was horrendously simple. Any thief could have done it, which is what’s most troubling, because I hadn’t used the deadlock, and I never used to use it.

Of course, it was also troubling that I had to pay £90 for the privilege of getting back into my own house. So much money, and so much effort, would have been saved if I’d taken a few precautions, such as these:

– Have a key safe, either a noticeable one screwed to the wall with a keypad to open it, or a more unobtrusive one hidden in the border.

– Carry an extra key on you – in your purse, in a zip pocket in your wallet, in an inside pocket, for instance, as well as your keyring.

– Give a copy of your key to a trusted friend or relative. Be very sure of whoever it is you choose: even friends and relatives can fall out! What would you do if you and your key holder fell out? And maybe they live quite a distance away, so if you only find out at midnight that you’re locked out, you might not be able to get in touch.

– Giving a copy of your key to a neighbour is even more of a potential problem, in my eyes: they’re very, very close geographically, so if you do lock yourself out, they’re right on hand to help. But even if you don’t fall out, how nosy are they? When you’re on holiday, would they be tempted to let themselves in and have a snoop around? Thats assuming you haven’t asked them to come in to feed the plants or the pets – all the same, you’re going to have to trust them not to snoop, when it would be so very easy for them to do just that.

– All of the above is only any good if its an up to date key copy. When doors are upgraded, there’s a new lock, of course. And maybe the locks have been changed, rather than the whole door. Make sure your backup people have the new key.

– Inside the house, don’t store your keys near the front door, or any door or window through which they can be seen. If you do, you’re just giving any potential burglar an easier job.

– Additionally, don’t just leave your key in the lock. I know its tempting, and you may think you’d then be able to get out fast in case of fire, but a burglary is almost certainly a lot more common than a house fire – and anyway, the answer is to store the key somewhere safe near the door, but out of sight from outside the house.

– Use the deadlock. If you don’t, a thief needs a few metal bars to screw together and push through your letterbox, and they’re in, very quietly and very quickly. And you may find that if you don’t use the deadbolt, your household insurance is invalid.

– Even if you do everything right, it can really help to have the phone numbers of a couple of local locksmiths. Before my recent experience, I’d have said take a phone number, singular. But even though I spoke with a locksmith company late at night, they didn’t have anyone prepared to come out that night. Take two numbers, as local as possible.

But which locksmith? There’s the Master Locksmiths Association – and on their home page, they even have a pdf of approved locksmith members that can be downloaded to your phone, so as long as you’ve got your phone, you can look at it.

Before any of this, if you’ve just moved in somewhere, even if you’re a tenant and haven’t bought the place yourself, get the locks changed – you don’t know how long those locks have been in, and you don’t know how freely the keys to them have been spread around. Its not a huge outlay for peace of mind. What to buy as a replacement is very important, and thats the subject of another blog post.

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