Insurance Requirements

It’s time for the regular note on house insurance locking requirements.

There are still buildings and contents insurance policies out there living in times gone by. They assume that everyone still has a traditional wooden door and require you to have a five-lever, mortice deadlock. Now, in my opinion a five-lever, mortice deadlock is still the best. However, if you have a PVC door rather than a wooden one, you almost certainly don’t have a five-lever mortice deadlock; and quite probably you couldn’t have a mortice deadlock even if you wanted one; the construction of a PVC door simply doesn’t permit it.

A more enlightened insurance policy will have more than one way of satisfying requirements. In addition to the mortice deadlock they might consider a key operated multi-point locking system having, say, at least three locking bolts securing the door from several points. If so then your typical PVC door will be covered. A PVC door will have a cylinder lock rather than a lever lock but it will be key operated (or you’re in more trouble than just with your insurance). You will have to check that it has the required number of bolts. Open the door and operate the locking mechanism. If you see just one bolt coming out, then that’s not going to cut the mustard. If you see three or five bolts, hooks or mushrooms moving then you’re probably good. You may even find that when you operated the key, as you should otherwise anyone can unlock all those impressive bolts, one more bolt will emerge.

Other doors can also be relatively secure and still not have a five-lever mortice deadlock. A mortice lock is one that is inside the door; you don’t see the body of the lock, you just see the front of it in the edge of the door. If you can see the body of your only lock sitting there on the back of the door, then you have a rim lock not a mortice lock. Some insurance policies are OK with that as long as it’s a BS3621 one. I’m afraid that most rim locks are not. Only something like an ERA BS or a Yale PBS will be.

If you do determine that you have a mortice lock, the final question is, ‘is it lever operated and how many levers?’ The first thing to do is read what it says on the face plate in the door edge, it will usuall say three levers (no good) or five levers (good). If you can’t read the faceplate under its years of paint, then the keyhole and the bolt will usually give you a strong clue.

If it looks like an iconic, traditional keyhole, similar to this:

keyhole

then it will be mortice lock; and if the bolt is squared rather than beveled and doesn’t come out until you deploy the key, then it’s a deadlock.

Mortice deadlock

Typical lever-operated, mortice deadlock

So, how many levers if you can’t read the faceplate? You will have to examine your key carefully. There will be several “castellations” all of roughly the same width. You count the castellations. Be carefull though: it is possible that two adjacent castellations or ‘bits’ as we actually term them, are the same height; that’s why you have to be aware of the average width of a bit. Now, if you have seven bits, then you probably have a five lever lock. As to why it’s seven rather than five, that just happens to be the subject of the previous post.

Finally, what if you have a mortice lock; you have even determined that it is a mortice deadlock; yet there is a cylinder rather than a keyhole, like these?

An "oval" profile cylinder

An “oval” profile cylinder

Euro profile cylinder

A “euro” profile cylinder

(Of course, you will only see the end of the cylinder.) Well then you have a cylinder operated mortice deadlock. And very few insurance policies acknowledge such things, unless the lock is BS (kite-marked) and your policy is happy with any old BS (kite-marked) lock.

Euro mortice deadbolt

Typical cylinder-operated deadbolt

One of the varieties of the good Banham lock, for example, could be a cylinder-operated deadlock; however, depsite what you will have paid for it, it won’t be acceptable to many, many insurance policies; you will have to ring your underwriter.

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