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I moved into my first flat on the London Road in Leigh on Sea in 1983. I was particularly conscious about my security and deliberately chose a top floor flat.

The only issue was the front door of the building. It was left open all the time. While my flat’s front door was secured by a sturdy Yale lock and reinforced with a Chubb multi-lever, anyone could get into the stairwell.

And they frequently did. Leaving deposits of urine and, once, something worse.

Fortunately, I got married fairly soon after that. And our joint incomes were able to afford a lovely house with a burglar alarm.

Fast forward 30 years, three grown up children and one divorce later, I was back to living in flats again.

The pros and cons of door entry systems in Leigh-on-Sea

My first rental was in a modern block south of Rectory Grove. It was built just after the year 2000. The developers had put some thought into security. There was an automatic gate operated with a keyfob for residents. Plus the protection of a video intercom.

If someone wanted to visit you, they had to buzz from outside the gate. As soon as they buzzed, you could see an image of whoever was waiting to come in.

If it was a politician or some other cold caller, you could take a look and decide not to answer.

If you were unsure who it was, you could talk to them through the intercom. It allowed you to request the presentation of any IDs or badges to confirm their identity. And you could view these on the screen from the safety of your flat.

This is ideal to stop scenarios like the horrible attack on poor Petra Kvitova, the tennis player. She was hoodwinked into letting a ‘gas man’ into her home. He proceeded to attack her with a knife, resulting in injuries to her hand that threatened to end her playing career. He only left when she gave him money. 

The only downside of that system was the lack of a letterbox. If someone wanted to deliver a parcel and couldn’t get any of the flats to answer, there was nowhere to leave a card to say so. A definite design flaw.

Door entry systems to protect vulnerable residents

The next flat I rented was up on the hill overlooking the beaches of Chalkwell and Southend Pier. There were 14 flats over 7 floors. The buildings were put up in the late 1970s. Most of the other residents were over 65. They were not big on security. Their only protection from intruders to the common parts was an elderly lock and an audio door intercom.

Several times, individuals were able to enter the building by pressing ALL the buzzers and waiting for someone to let them in. The elderly residents often didn’t even ask. They just assumed it was a parcel delivery for someone in the block. And pressed the button that automatically opened the door on the ground floor. Even if they did ask the caller’s business, they had no way of seeing who they were letting in or verifying which flat they were going to.

Neighbourhood watch

Once inside, the intruder would visit the front doors of all the flats. If they couldn’t push them open, they would ring the door bell on the flat and then try to persuade the elderly occupant to let them in. Mostly, it was door to door salesmen trying to flog broadband or a cheaper energy provider. But you could never be sure about that ‘cover’.

As the youngest resident, there were several occasions where I was called upon to sprint up or down the stairs to ask an intruder to vacate the premises.

On the plus side, there was a working letter box, so cards from parcel deliveries could be left.

My final apartment experience was in a small block built in the 1980s. Like the previous block, there was a lockable front door and an audio intercom. But no letterbox.

Being close to the main A13 London Road, when it was cold, there was a problem with vagrants. They would try to get into the common parts to stay warm. Their favourite MO was to press the intercom buzzer and pretend to have arranged to meet one of the other residents, who had been delayed.

If any of the neighbours fell for that, it was a devil of a job to get the intruder out again. And once they’re in, one intruder can open the door to others…

Secure the block and keep intruders out!

If intruders can get into your common parts and stairwells, it makes you vulnerable. Any decision to choose an upper floor flat for added protection is completely wiped out. People can get to your front door and often work on this without being seen.

Upgrade your block’s front door with a video intercom to give you the best possible control over who can get inside. For residents, this keeps you safer and your common areas clean. As a landlord, it adds to your rental value. Everyone benefits!

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Thank you to Joanna Benson of Property-Safety.com for this guest blog post.

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