Burglars paradise: £30 million of goods stolen from outbuildings in last three years

  • Since the beginning of 2018, more than £30 million worth of goods have been stolen from garden sheds and outbuildings across England and Wales
  • In this time, over 70,000 cases of theft from a garden shed have been reported to police forces in England and Wales, the equivalent of 64 each day
  • In 2020, thefts from outbuildings accounted for a fifth (20 per cent) of all burglary claims
  • Yet 67 per cent of people admit their outbuildings are easily accessible from outside their property


New research1 from Churchill Home Insurance reveals that in the last three years, £30 million worth of items have been stolen from garden sheds and outbuildings across England and Wales. Since the beginning of 2018, more than 70,000 cases of theft from outbuildings have been reported to police forces, the equivalent of 64 a day.

Findings show that last year alone, a fifth (20 per cent) of all burglary claims were for theft of contents from outbuildings. This means that around £26,500 worth of claims for thefts from sheds, garages and outbuildings were made every day throughout 20202.

The average value of items stored in an outbuilding is £1,414, although one in twelve people (eight per cent) store goods worth more than £5,0003. Yet two thirds (67 per cent) of people admit these buildings are easily accessible from outside their property and one in six (16 per cent) do not do anything to secure them.  Even those who don’t lock up their outbuildings store an average of £991 worth of items in them, meaning that a potential £5.8 billion is being left unsecured outside the home.

The most broken into outbuildings are garages (50 per cent), followed by sheds (37 per cent) and bike sheds (eight per cent)2. Properties with easy access to gardens such as semi-detached (31 per cent), detached (22 per cent) and end-of-terraces (16 per cent) account for the majority of outbuilding thefts.

Pedal bikes were the most commonly cited item stolen from outbuildings and accounted for over half (52 per cent) of all items reported stolen to police forces. Tools and hardware accounted for 22 per cent of thefts, followed by gardening equipment and plants (eight per cent), electronics and appliances (seven per cent) and raw materials (seven per cent).

Table one: Most stolen items from outbuildings

Most stolen item

Share of thefts

Pedal bikes

52 per cent

Tools and hardware

22 per cent

Gardening equipment and plants

8 per cent

Electronics and appliances

7 per cent

Raw materials

7 per cent

Food and drink

3 per cent


2 per cent

Source:  Churchill Home Insurance 2021

Pritpal Powar, Head of Churchill Home Insurance, said: “This research shows just how easy it can be for burglars to steal goods from outbuildings. Many of us don’t give the same attention to the security of outbuildings as we do our main home, yet often store valuable goods there. These are great storage facilities, but we need to make sure they are not an easy target for burglars.

“Taking some simple steps will help deter burglars and these don’t need to be expensive security systems. Installing locks, removing valuables from sight and making sure the outbuilding is easily viewed or well-lit from your main residence will all contribute to making your home less of a target.”

According to  claims data, homeowners in the South East are most likely to need to make a home insurance claim relating to an outbuilding theft, accounting for one in seven (15 per cent) such claims in 2020. This was followed by London (14 per cent), Yorkshire and the Humber (13 per cent) and the South West (11 per cent), with the North West (10 per cent) competing the top five. Interestingly, the South East and London, despite accounting for over a quarter of all claims for garden shed theft, have two of the lowest proportions of inhabitants with access to a garden shed or outhouse, with only 65 per cent of people in the South East owning an outbuilding and 62 per cent of Londoners. Conversely, while 90 per cent of the Welsh population have an outbuilding, it experienced only three per cent of all outbuilding thefts last year.

Table two: Rate of outbuilding theft by region


Share of all outbuilding-related claims, 2020

Proportion of population with an outbuilding

South East

15 per cent

65 per cent


14 per cent

62 per cent

Yorkshire and the Humber

13 per cent

73 per cent

South West

11 per cent

79 per cent

North West

10 per cent

75 per cent

West Midlands

8 per cent

73 per cent

East Midlands

8 per cent

86 per cent

East of England

8 per cent

79 per cent


7 per cent

63 per cent

North East

4 per cent

74 per cent


3 per cent

90 per cent

Northern Ireland

<1 per cent

80 per cent

UK total

100 per cent

73 per cent

Source:  Churchill Home Insurance 2021

To keep your outbuildings and sheds safe, here are some further tips from Churchill Home Insurance:

  • Make sure your outbuilding is locked at all times, even while you are at home
  • If possible, install movement detection lights
  • If you have a window, remove high value items from view or black out the window
  • Chain and padlock expensive items such as bikes to the ground or wall
  • Consider storing smaller, high value items in a safe
  • Deter burglars by planting holly bushes, hawthorn or other prickly plants around the boundaries of your garden- this can be off-putting for thieves who want to get in and out as quickly as possible
  • Putting gravel or stones on your garden paths or by your shed will make it harder for burglars to be quiet


- ENDS -

Notes to Editor

1            Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to Police Forces in England and Wales on 15th December 2020. 21 of 45 police forces (48%) responded with usable data

2            Analysis of claims data supplied by Direct Line Group – January 2021

3            Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,001 UK adults between 22-25th January 2021 

For further information please contact:

Hayley Saunders
Churchill PR Manager

Mobile: 07814 269915

[email protected]

Alannah Sims

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Tel: 0207 025 6563

Email: [email protected]



Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK's leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

Churchill general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.  

Churchill and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.  

Customers can find out more about Churchill products or get a quote by calling 0300 200 300 or visiting www.churchill.com