Tuesday, 26 August 2008

I Know A Jolly Policeman...

I was busy typing in my flat when a yellow card was shoved under the door by the police. It was a ‘Burglary Alert.’ Between the hours of 8am and 3pm, ‘…a property had been burgled.’ Had I seen or heard anything suspicious? Did I have any information which could assist them to catch those responsible or information about other crimes in the area?

Worryingly, I hadn’t heard a thing. Later that evening, I called police to report the following: (here we go again…) the front door is always broken, there’s no security, the management company don’t give a flying one etc, etc. Furthermore (now take a while to enjoy this; it’s brilliant) every single window in the building is fitted with the same lock.

The policeman I spoke to was forthright, paternal and concerned. He took some time leafing through the enormous Dovecot Towers log to find the particular crime in question, and the Dovecot file is very thick indeed, containing ‘…a disproportionately high amount of incidents.’ I told him what I have witnessed: stolen post, intruders etc. He said that when such unreported incidents are included in their statistics, it’s even worse than they imagined. Why hadn’t I gone to the police? I said: we’ve no CCTV (well, what we had was stolen) and I’ve no idea when my post was taken. He said: why not move?

Mostly, he wondered what the management company do about all this, adding that if it was his beat, he would have ‘harsh words’ with them. To his open astonishment, I said that they won’t deal with tenants.

I pointed out that the ‘secure entry code’ on the main door has been the same since February. Despite there being ‘hotel’ guests and countless visitors passing through, the management company (now, this is even better) had informed us about the new code on a window poster next to the broken main door. Bravo!

The kindly policeman told me that three flats were burgled efficiently in quick succession, the locks busted with a cordless drill after gaining easy access through the broken main door. He carefully, but unconvincingly implied that the robberies were not close by, and his final wise advice was to put a huge new fangled padlock on my front door until I moved.

The investigating officer called a week later. She was also horrified: I told her about the door, and the window locks. She had noticed that crime was rife, and security was poor, but I knew that. Nobody else had responded to her card.

Now in abject despair, I emailed my landlord, who contacted the management company, detailing my (and now his) fear. The managers emailed their solution to the security problem.
Was it a new door, or lock?
No.
Security guards or extensive CCTV?
No.
Were they sorry?
No.

They were ‘aware of the situation,’ and had instructed contractors to mend the door whenever it was broken (not – you will note – replace it) which might just be the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Oh – and they promised to contact individual tenants and owners, advising them to replace the locks.

I told some neighbours, who either didn’t believe me, can’t be arsed or think I am a keening prophet of doom (and a bit crazy.) Other residents I spoke to were oblivious to the burglaries, and had not been notified about the urgent necessity of fitting stronger door locks by landlords or the management company. So much for promises and ‘awareness.’

One man I spoke to had only recently moved in. He was astounded by the sense of alienation here; nobody speaking, neighbours shuffling back inside to avoid each other. He’d never seen his neighbours, and I was definitely the first resident to chat. I advised him to have all mail redirected, but he already encountered the Dovecot Mail. Like many here, his post-box was crow-barred open before he moved in, and never mended.

Just a few months or so previously, I wrote here that newbuilds are desolate and neglected and how this will lead to crime, even deaths. I wish I was wrong, but I’m afraid my worst fears are being confirmed. Time to leave? That goes without saying.
(NB As I write this, the main door has been broken for two days.)

13 comments:

MattW said...

The Management Company's attitude to this is utterly appalling! Surely their non-caring attitude is evidence of their incompetence?

The Directors of the Management Company ought to be forced to live in one of the flats for a week (including having their mail redirected there) to put up with what you tenants and the owner occupiers have to! If they refuse, then they deserve to have their building compulsarily purchased by the Council or Housing Association at a discount and the flat owners reimbursed in full for their leaseholds!

Furthermore, I hope that developers and councils learn a lesson in this and start to build housing designed to foster more community spirit!

Anonymous said...

In reference to the above, high density inner city housing is nothing but a failed 60's collectivist dream, in reality it's a socially engineered distopian nightmare. It's exactly what the banks and powers that be want to achieve, an easily controlled and exploited populace farmed like battery hens in bland, anonymous over priced cells. With maximum return for banks, developers and council tax receipts in exchange for minimal outlay and no provision of basic amenities or services.

RenterGirl said...

It is appalling. And definitely incompetent. Tenants move so frequently that nothing is ever done, and all the management company ever do is issue bland, unenforceable 'committments.'

It's destroying the valeu of these properties, and while many of us have little sympathy for buy to let owners, some of them are simply trying to put something by for a pension fund. Many owners do not take these problems seriously, and are amazed when they visit, or hear complaints. When reposessed, these hutches sell for under half the original price at auction, which means a lifetime of debt instead of a happy retirement.

Thanks for reading.

Connor Davies said...

Don't you think that the Management Company's attitude is shaped by the indifference of their landlords, and in turn by their tenants?

Yes, their behaviour is "appalling", to quote mattw, but it's more complicated than that - it's too easy to find an easy target and shout abuse at them (your pension company has probably invested in Dovecot Towers - more cost to the management company means worse returns on your savings, insurance and pension schemes, by the way...)

In turn, how about considering whether our consume and replace attitude to life, our "liquid living" to quote Zygmunt Bauman, attitude, where life is lived superficially, fleetingly, without commitment - means that tenants know that

a) they won't be there for long, because successful people live in Real Houses With Gardens, therefore why bother caring about crime, the front door, getting to know the neighbours so you can recognise when strangers are drilling out the locks

b) who cares if their stuff is broken into? just blag it all on insurance anyway - and that way you can get New Stuff rather than the Old Stuff which they have now

c) People who whinge to the Police or the Landlords are just troublemakers who make things take longer and "do their heads in".

So, in short, you and me and all of society is to blame, not just the Management Company.

If you (as in other readers, not necessarily the author) want to change this, then go and introduce yourself to your neighbours, set up a Neighbourhood Watch group, volunteer to drop in on vulnerable tenants, get a group of you to get the door fixed yourselves... the limits to the solutions are to be found in your imaginations.

If you don't like the system, change it rather than writing a ****ing blog.

Anonymous said...

RG,

Connor Davies' final comments are way OTT. You ARE doing something about it - reading your blog you have done much of what CD suggests.

It is true that exceptional people have successfully started community action. Unfortunately the dice - not least the legal dice - are weighted against individual action. A teacher lost her job and her home after she was convicted of assault for firing an air pistol once into the ground in front of a yob who had been threatening her and assaulting her son. She had reported the offender to the police repeatedly beforehand.

If you, with or without other tenants, replace the communal front door, it will be at your own expense and the landlord (management company) can in principle sue for compensation for alteration of the property.

Publicising these abuses is one of the best things you can do.

Ultimately, one has to move - being a community saint is a full-time job and difficult to combine with paid employment.

Good luck if you do move,

David

Anonymous said...

It's pretty disturbing how a management company can take payments for providing a basic service that they seemingly refuse to do.

Yeah, tenants can be a nightmare and I'm sure it's a really big fucking headache that they, like, want things repairing and all that. But what the fuck are the Management Company supposed to be there for? Forget all this 'why don't you move?' shit that's laid on the tenants. How about aiming 'why don't you find a new line of work?' to management companies who apparently want to play caretaker on the condition that it doesn't actually mean doing anything.

Bastards.

RenterGirl said...

Just so know, I do introduce myself to neighbours. After the recent burglaries, I knocked on several neighbours doors. They refused to answer. Yesterday, I asked another tenant, emerging from his flat, whether his landlord had informed him about the need to get better locks. He literally ran away, shouting: I am staying here for the night (the owners are now so desperate they are renting as catered flats on short term lets.)
Connor, I value comment, but I don't like the way you seem to transfer blame to me for not becoming Super-rentergirl!!!
I am doing all I can, and frankly all I want to.
You do seem a bit bitter.

the reaper said...

connor is way off the mark.

you are doing something by bringing it to the attention of us all.we have a planner or two reading this and that will have more impact than knocking on ****ing doors of people who want to be left alone.

it's always society,isn't it.there is noone who can take responsisbility.well connor,shocking news for you.legally,there is someone responsible for what RG complains about.

you are obviously some BTLer looking for a govt bailout,you cock.

RenterGirl said...

Inner city newbuild complexes are not villages from the olden days. Strangers move in an out. We operate as best we can within this lifestyle. A rare few of us speak to each other. Most tenants stay for about six months. They haven't moved here to become mates with the neighbours, but to live in seclusion. I'm more annoyed that a management company is effectively taking a large wedge of money, and running off with it. Many buy to let landlords thought their investment would thrive on its own, forgetting about little things such as responsibility and maintenance.

Anonymous said...

On the new build development I live in, the entry code to our flats is 1234. All three blocks of flats (about 90 dwellings) have the same code, and needless to say they have a rapid turnover of tenants, so that's very secure then. On a related issue, the Planners have provided a cycle store . Now , an individual locked store for each flat would have been great, but of course then the naughty naughty people could have put things other than cycles in them. Therefore we have a COMMUNAL cycle store, for which each of 32 households has a key. The rationale for this can only be that the shifting band of people who inhabit 32 flats would feel such solidarity with each other as never to think of stealing each other's bikes. Needless to stay no-one uses the cycle store, except to deposit unwanted furniture when they move out. This leads to a stroppy letter from the Managers and an extra cost on residents for disposal of said junk.

RenterGirl said...

The management companies are devious in their stupidity...

katarina said...

I'm new to this blog and I've been going back over "older posts", trying to take in as much information as possible before mouthing off.
But the anonymous halfwit who chastised you for "writing a ****ing blog" and told you to change the system has moved me to say how great I think this blog is.
For someone who is suffering at the hands of amateur landlords and dodgy management companies, you are very well-mannered about them.
I'm a mortgage holder now, but I can't forget the insecurity of 16 years of renting, of dealing with estate agents who were sometimes barely more than children themselves, who couldn't even add up, and who automatically viewed renters as losers.
Since the sub-prime mortgage crisis came to light in the US I haven't seen a single mainstream media mention of the first people to lose their homes when mortgage holders stopped paying. Renters who'd paid a month in advance and moved in had to move straight out again.
Well, now that you've been linked to the Guardian maybe you are mainstream media. I hope so. I'm so glad to hear your voice, Renter Girl.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Katrina! Judging from conversations, comments and emails, I am not alone. Ther BTL phenonmena will blight our cities for years. And it's alwasy the little people who suffer. All I'm saying about landflords is, that hey are human, and have been burned. But tenants thrown out with a few hours notice (which happens...) Now that's bad.