Tuesday, 3 September 2013


Burglary is an upsetting and horrible crime. Having once lived in an area famous for housebreaking, I know this all too well. I once arrived home in the afternoon, and to my astonishment encountered a man nonchalantly trying to kick down my front door. I was stunned and appalled, but even so - I reasoned with him.

‘Please don’t rob us,’ I said. ‘We’re broke, and we’ve nothing of value – nothing you could sell.’
‘Sorry mate.’ He said. ‘I didn’t know you were in.’
He’d clearly been watching the house. ‘And anyway you’ve got insurance.’

We didn’t have insurance, and what little we owned was cheap but precious to us. I knew he’d be back.

One morning my housemate opened the window and saw another man half-way through the ground floor window. She screamed at him. He swore at her and fled.

We knew he’d back, too.

They didn’t wait long. Our house was emptied of all electrical appliances, including, oddly, an angle-poise lamp, which was an expensive gift. The idea that some spiteful, entitled little scrote rifled through all our personal possessions was truly distressing.

We phoned the police – for all the good it did us. They took a few notes, issued a crime number and left. Then we told the landlord he should repair the flimsy back door they crooks had pushed aside to force their way in.

The landlord’s response was to treat our request as if we were asking him to do us a massive favour. He would do the repairs and even install a burglar alarm if we agreed to let his ‘cousin’ move into the box-room. Well, that wasn’t dodgy at all, was it?

Some owners of furnished homes insist that tenants obtain contents insurance – which is legally dubious, and cheeky. They’re trying to force tenants to safeguard the owner’s property, which is stupid and ill-informed. They should pay to safeguard their own belongings and possessions – those that remain as fixtures, or linger unwanted in the house.

It always makes me wonder why they don’t supply burglar alarms, especially when rentiers previously lived in the homes they’ve just let out. Considering that their property could be damaged by robbers breaking in, you’d think security would be right at the top of any priority list.

But no. Owners seem oblivious to the perils of handing out keys like pass the parcel, and tenants can only change locks if they keep and then replace the original. Security provisions are certainly do not equal what rentiers have in their own homes. They expect tenants to make do with flimsy doors and weak windows where the frame is removed with a gentle shove.

Tenants are helpless here. They can’t really justify the cost, or effort of installing burglar alarms when they might be given two months notice at any time. There is no guarantee they will reap the benefits. So they’re stuck with rickety back doors and precarious windows which do not shut – let alone lock. And there’s very little they can do.

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