ONE in five homes is left vulnerable to a break-in because keys are left under the door mat or hidden nearby, according to a survey.
Researchers found as many as one in five homeowners regularly leaves a spare key near the front door for their children, friends or neighbours to use to enter the house.
Under a plant pot or beneath an inconspicuous brick were the top hiding places, while many still put their faith in leaving a spare key under the doormat.
And the smiling garden gnome may well be the one entrusted with home security as hiding keys under a mini statue proved the fourth most common spot for a spare.
Despite leaving a key to the door close by, 45 per cent were unsure as to whether their chosen spot was actually safe or a good idea.
The research, conducted by home-security company, Yale, found nearly a quarter of the 2,000 homeowners polled did not feel their local area was safe and a third had reason not to trust their neighbours.
A spokesman for the company, David Herbert said: “There’s a long-honoured tradition of hiding a key under the mat and it’s something many of us still do in this country. The range of quirky hiding spots shows plenty of imagination goes into choosing a place for our spare keys, but it still means that properties could potentially be exposed rather easily.
“It’s always worth considering how good a hiding spot is or if there’s a better way of providing easy access to those who need it, without taking risks.
“Whether it’s re-assessing the choice of hiding spot or keeping track of just how many spare keys to your home are out there or even having great neighbours you can trust one with, taking measures to ensure peace of mind around your home is important.”
The report found the tradition of hiding keys in secret nooks and crannies is very much alive, with a fear of being locked out the biggest reason for hiding keys.
And with one in five home owners leaving a key right outside, £715 billion worth of property is left vulnerable across the country.
Mr Herbert added: “Taking steps to consider your home security and whether it’s as good as it could be can help to ensure that the people with access to your property are not opportunistic criminals.”
1 Under a plant pot
2 Under a brick
3 Under front door mat
4 Under a statue
5 In the garden shed
6 In a flower bed
7 In the garage
8 In a nook in a garden wall
9 In a tree
10 The door frame