The research, commissioned by esure home insurance, revealed that a worrying fifth of Brits (20 per cent) keep the keys to their old home after moving but less than a third (30 per cent) change their locks when moving into a new home.

The research also reveals that an alarming one in five homes (20 per cent) has a key hidden within ten feet of the front door. The most common hiding place is beneath a garden rock with 13 per cent of Brits admitting to employing this tactic, followed by plant pots (12 per cent), underneath door mats (10 per cent) and even under car tyres (seven per cent).

Thousands of Brits have their home or car keys stolen every year yet a complacent 12 per cent fail to change their locks afterwards. A further one in ten (11 per cent) admit to not bothering to change their locks after losing a set of keys – despite the fact that five per cent of people polled (2.3 million) admit to keeping an address tag on their house keys.

Lost house keys can also lead to secondary car thefts. An increasing numbers of Brits have found that losing their house keys can also lead to greater implications. 53 cars are stolen every day in the UK following a burglary as thieves increasingly adopt the tactic of taking the car keys after gaining access to the owner’s home.

Two thirds (66 per cent) of Brits give family, friends and neighbours copies of keys to their homes but are much less likely to do so than ten years ago.

The over 55s are the most trusting with a third (33 per cent) saying that they often lend keys to their friends, while those aged under 25 are the least trusting with a third (35 per cent) saying that they have never given a key to a friend.

Nikki Sellers, Head of home insurance at esure, comments: “Changing locks when moving house or after losing keys can be a hassle, but it’s an investment that will lead to greater peace of mind and help avoid a potentially unpleasant experience.

“Labelling keys is a serious security risk – it’s also the reason why we have so many mystery keys. This is why we should recycle any keys that we no longer use to give us a better chance of remembering which ones we do.”

The research also found that while the average Brit has nine keys, 27 per cent of those polled said that they own between 10 and 15 different keys, with a further nine per cent possessing a huge 21 or more separate keys.

Older people are the most keyed up generation and sport significantly more keys on their key rings than younger people polled. The over 55s have an average of 10 keys compared to just six for on the key rings of those aged 25 and under.

Those in Scotland keep the fewest keys (an average of six) whereas those in the East Midlands have an average of 11 keys each. And while in Scotland the average ‘mystery keys’ per person is just two, in the South West the average person owns four mystery keys.

The average female owns 10 separate keys whereas men have only eight keys, yet 23 per cent of those owned by men are mystery keys compared to 20 per cent of those owned by women.

Men are more lazy when it comes to changing the locks if their home or car keys are stolen – 14 per cent admit to not doing so compared to one in ten (10 per cent) women.

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