Communal Doors

What can you do about the security of your communal door, particularly if you live in a flat in a converted house? The unfortunate answer is, not much.

The first problem is when there’s an electronic entry system of the cheap kind. The cheap kind puts the release solenoid in the keep which is the bit that goes on the frame. This means that all of the lock manufacturers’ clever devices to stop their latch locks being manipulated open no longer work because the keep is the wrong shape. Some lock manufacturers will supply an appropriate electronic keep but they’re more expensive than the general-purpose ones so they tend not to get fitted. (Ingersoll’s excellent SC71 has an electric keep option, for example.) Another better option, also expensive, is to put the release solenoid in the lock — the part on the door itself. Cisa is one of the best known and well regarded of these. In addition to the cost, however, they are also trickier to fit as far as the wiring is concerned.

The second problem is that most conversions’ front doors have the traditional nightlatch plus mortice deadlock. It’s dangerous and inconvenient to use the deadlock (you really don’t want to find yourself trapped in the hallway behind a locked front door and with the deadlock’s key the other side of the fire), so only the latch is used.

Thirdly, the communal door will get twice as much use but much less care and attention, so it will tend to fall apart.

Well you have to summon up the willpower (and the landord) to make the communal door at least a little bit of a challenge to the thief. Get any poor woodwork properly repaired by a competent carpenter. Get the keeps and locks securely attached and consider a London bar to further strengthen the keeps. And get a cowl or a mailguard bag over your letterslot.

What else can you do? One of the most important things is a PIR-activated porch light that is bright and directed, and that comes on when someone is about half-way up the garden path. And if there are tall hedges hiding the doorway from the road, get them trimmed.

You can consider replacing the old lever mortice deadlock with a cylinder-operated mortice deadlock where the cylinder has a thumbturn on the inside. Then there should be no chance that someone will get locked in. However, there will still be some dwellers who can’t be bothered to put the key in and lock the door when they go out.

So, whilst you should obviously do your best with the communal door, you should focus even more of your attention on your flat door. If you check your insurance policy (and you should), you may find that it doesn’t even mention the communal door; it will probably be talking about your flat door.

So despite your best efforts, thieves may well get into the hallway — coming in on someone’s heels — taking advantage of someone who didn’t bother to set the deadlock — and once the’re inside and out of sight they can pretty much take their time and make plenty of noise with impunity.

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