Three renters have contacted us with similar concerns about home security in the past few weeks. One of them, Pavel, recently rented a room in a flat above a shop. There are four others in the flat, none of whom knew each other before moving in.
Pavel’s tenancy agreement states that he should take out contents insurance, as the landlord bears no responsibility for any damage or loss. That’s not unusual. But there is no lock on the door of Pavel’s room, just a door handle. There would be no need to force entry to get into Pavel’s room, so any claim for loss from would probably be rejected by an insurer.
After one resident was burgled (they suspect another person who lives there), Pavel asked the landlord’s agent to fit an appropriate lock. The agent refused. That’s when Pavel contacted Renters’ Rights London.
Oddly, there is no statutory obligation on landlords to fit locks to the doors of internal doors, not even when they’re rented out as individual rooms. Pavel’s place is a ‘home in multiple occupation’, with five tenants who are not all related. This flat should definitely be licensed by the local council, then.
The licensing agreement might contain regulations about locks on internal doors. Licensing conditions vary between different local councils. HMO licenses usually include rules about the type and standard of internal doors. Rooms must have fire doors with intumescent strips or smoke seals, as part of fire safety measures.
The property licences Renters’ Rights London has seen say that locks on internal doors must be opened by a thumb turn from the inside. But we haven’t seen a licence which obliges landlords to fit locks on internal doors. Now, we realize that this is a really bad omission that doesn’t serve renters at all well. We’ll raise the matter with every council we speak to hereafter and hope that changes can be made before too long.
Pavel should read through a copy of the property licence relating to his address, anyway, to see whether there’s any requirement for locks on internal doors. If there is, he should contact the landlord (not the agent) in writing, quoting from the licence and asking the landlord to meet their obligation.
Pavel (or anyone) should end that letter/email with a question, perhaps about the anticipated timescale, to make it plain that a response is expected. If no response is forthcoming after a week, and there is a breach of licensing requirements, Pavel should report it to the property licensing department of the local council.
If having insurance were actually a condition of renting his room, Pavel could argue that a lock should put on the door, so that he can meet the tenancy conditions. But in this case, it’s not actually a requirement, just a (very unhelpful) comment.
If he is willing to pay to have a lock fitted, Pavel could seek the landlord’s permission to do so. Without the landlord’s written permission. Pavel could find himself liable for damage to the door or to the door frame later. The landlord might seek to make a deduction from his deposit (which is properly protected, in accordance with the law) for that.
On the other hand, if Pavel were to leave the lock he paid for in place when he moves out, he should be ready to appeal against any such deduction for damage. He could point to the clause in the tenancy agreement about contents insurance. It’s hard to know what an independent adjudicator would conclude under the circumstances. But as long as this lock met the standard required by licensing (opened by a thumb turn on the inside), it seems unlikely that Pavel would be penalised.
As for Pavel’s neighbour, who has already been burgled, he may wish to seek advice on the merits of making a claim against the landlord, for not providing a lockable door, an preventing him from obtaining insurance to cover his loss.
Do you live in West Finchley
Renters’ Rights London was impressed and pleased to learn that West Finchley Residents Association is so mindful of the changing demographics of the neighbourhood. This is a long-standing local campaigning organization, set up by owner-occupiers in the area.
Active members are really keen for West Finchley Residents Association to reflect the real needs, concerns and priorities of all local residents. They’re starting this work with a listening campaign. Jon, who contacted Renters’ Rights London to tell us about this, said “We put people before programming.”
He went on explain “Rather than designing a set of activities and hoping people attend, you see where there is demand and you build from the ground up. Listening Campaigns often lead to the development of initiatives/campaigns/programmes arising from common concerns…..But they are not a magic wand that you can wave and make the world a better place” as Jon acknowledged. “It requires a little work and willingness to persevere through difficulties.”
Quite so. But we think that there is great potential for good work in West Finchley. If you live in this part of North London, you can find out more via WRFA Facebook page. Alternatively, drop us a line , including details of the best way to contact you, and we’ll gladly pass the message on to Jon, at West Finchley Residents Association.