Sunday, 13 January 2013

Criminal With A Key To Your Home

This much we know: prospective tenants undergo multiple, strenuous, onerous, innovative checks and are even obliged to pay for the ‘privilege.’ They provide personal and employer references, credit checks, bank statements: most letting agents and landlords request proof of ID, often kept on file contravening data protection. Soon renters will be obliged to submit DNA samples, and no - I’m not joking.

But you make it through. And there you are sitting safe at home when a burglar enters the lounge. He’s also got convictions for violence, with a talent for fraud. How the hell did he get in? Simple: he used a key.

One pragmatic suggestion currently in circulation would vastly improve conditions and security for renters. Several tenant rights groups have proposed that all landlords and letting agents should be required to undergo Criminal Record Bureau checks (CRB).

Before the crazier landlord trolls comment in a self-righteous froth that tenants should also be checked, hear me out: no matter what they do, tenants never hold a key to their landlord’s home.

The exception is when lodging, and the incoming bedroom tax bomb is detonating, and victims are advised to get lodgers. What if they are single women, perhaps with children? Who’s that living with them, now?

There are many tales, anecdotal, in the press and in law reports of landlords convicted of behaviour indicating they should not have ready access to a stranger’s house. For example, key-holders who have been convicted of rape… not a good sign of being trustworthy with that key, is it?

Cases like the landlord convicted after installing hidden cameras in his female tenants bedrooms, who could have emerged from prison and immediately reconvene his landlording – there’s nothing to stop him. The case below is especially nasty: the landlord was already on the sex offenders register, but raped his vulnerable, fifteen year old ‘tenant’ in return for her being allowed to keep a roof over her head.

One landlord I know let his HMO specifically to models (I sneaked under the wire somehow) and was found creeping into our rooms during the day to sniff our bed clothes. I also have a friend whose landlord offered to ‘go easy’ on her when she was in arrears if ‘she was nice to him.’ (I don’t think he meant baking him fairy cakes.)

And it’s not just the private sector: a housing association once sent round several workmen to renovate a block, and many female tenants, myself included, reported them for grotesquely inappropriate behaviour while working inside flats. No action was taken. It was, they said: ‘our word against theirs.’

All tenants are vulnerable. Sleaziness and intimidation are regular hazards for (especially, but not solely) female tenants. Would CRB checks prevent abuses? Not entirely.

But forcing prospective landlords, housing providers and letting agents to demonstrate a record free of violent crime and sexual offences would at least allow tenants to check their landlord isn’t just violent, abusive and dangerous, but all that whilst holding their front door key. If landlords are to become professional, this is essential. Then we can tackle the harassment.


Anonymous said...

I could be wrong but I am pretty sure you are entitled to change the locks as long as you provide the landlord with keys when you move out.

RenterGirl said...

It's true: but problems where agents/landlords insist on regular (even monthly!) inspections meaning costly locksmith bills or being in when they call. lso not the point: tenants should know who is their landlord ie that they are not dangerous.

space cadet said...

Thanks for highlighting this. Safety is such a huge concern when renting. It is criminal that this situation is being allowed to fester like this.

Dare I say, it will take some horror story for the Govt to sit up and listen/give-a-shit/do anything.

RenterGirl said...

I think they know now, how renting can be a nightmare. Still on paying lip service to true reform and controls, mind...

Anonymous said...

It takes a bit of doing keeping a tab on things but I change the locks when tenants move out and a new one moves in, most of the time it is a 2 minute job just the barrel and I tell the new ones I have done this especially the women on their own so they know the previous tenant can’t just walk back in with a copy key .The sheet sniffer of rapist could quite as easily be a former tenant as anyone else .
Also I don’t mind if anyone changes the locks as long as they put mine back when they go however I can’t count the times I have had to get up from infront of the fire and go let some numpty in who has not botheres themselves to get a relative as a key holder. .Or today perfect example a young couple have fallen out this morning I get a text from him saying he wants a new contract in his name only he is taking the place on himself ,another text this afternoon from her saying he has thrown her out and taken all the keys she is in the snow and can I come and let her back into her home.
The domestic side to this is none of my concern however it is a joint tenancy she has a legal right of access and as such I will let her in .
Good job I had a key eh !
Simon PLD

RenterGirl said...

It's true: I once counted how mny people had been given, possibly copied, the key to my home: agents, owners, contractors, former tenants. But it's the landlord who is most likley to have key to let themselves in, even during inspections. So CRB checks would be useful.

RenterGirl said...

In other news, I REALLY hate spammers.

I ALWAYS delete them.

Dazzla said...

Do you have to delete them all manually? I subscribe to this on RSS and I see a LOT of spam.

RenterGirl said...

Only some sneaky ones that get through. They are so badly written sometimes I think about letting the odd one go. But then I see it's for freaky porn and change my mind.