The article below is a guide to inform you on the risks of locks for communal doors. These issues are what we discover and how we advise our customers on the solutions.
Please note you should always check with your insurers and fire officer.
We go to a lot of properties that are multi-tenanted and either converted houses turned into flats or bedsits or purpose built flats. At most of these properties, we come across the same type of concerns, and below are some of them and their solutions.
Insecure Lock for Communal Doors
Most of the communal doors on these properties are a standard Yale Lock, a Yale 89, or a Yale 85 or similar standard lock with a standard electric release on the frame side.
Standard Electric Release
Unfortunately, the standard Yale locks used are easily opened from the outside either by force, where the electric release snaps due to being made of weak metal, or with a piece of plastic or a credit card, enabling people to get in with no noise.
You can get some upgraded Yale-type locks that prevent the latch from being opened with a credit card or a piece of plastic, but the electric release is then still the weak part and would, and does, snap under force.
Upgraded Yale-type Locks
The above locks are more secure because they have an automatically deadlocking latch.
So, what we suggest and advise our customers is to upgrade the lock to a Cisa lock.
The Cisa lock is a lot more secure as it cannot be opened with a piece of plastic or a credit card, and the weak electric release on the frame is removed and fitted with a solid box keep.
The Cisa lock also has a deadlocking latch, which prevents it from being slipped with a piece of plastic or a credit card. Instead of the weak electric release, the Cisa lock actually releases the latch when power is applied. The red button on the back of the Cisa lock is pressed from the inside when people are exiting.
The Cisa lock is a straightforward upgrade for the standard 60mm back set Yale 89. What we would do is remove the old Yale lock, put a new Cisa lock in its place, remove the old electric release and fit the new box keep. We would need to extend the electric release wire, run round to the hinge side of the door and fix an armoured door loop to go across the door, then attach the wire into the Cisa lock enabling the Cisa lock to be released from the existing intercom system. In some circumstances, we may need to upgrade the power supply.
We unfortunately do this type of work too often after the property has been broken into.
On many occasions, we have been round and the burglars have got in through the communal front door with now damage, and then have been able to break into one or even all of the flats. They are out of the sight of any passes by once through the communal door.
Flat Doors Broken In
Communal Doors with Fire Safety Issues
The other thing that we see a lot, which is a big no-no and a major risk if there’s ever a fire in the building, is a Chubb-type mortice deadlock fitted on a communal door.
If you have a lock on your communal door that you need a key to open from the inside, then you are at risk of being trapped if there ever was a fire.
I know it’s not nice to think about, but you need to consider if there ever was a fire in the flats or communal areas. If you come down trying to escape and find the door is locked, you, in all the panic, won’t have a key, and so you would be trapped.
You need to get in contact with your landlord or freeholder or get together with the other owners and get it changed. It’s not costly and can be changed within an hour.
The lock needs to be changed and upgraded to a lock with a turn on the inside; this enables you to open it from the inside without a key.
Locks with a Turn on the Inside
I know from experience people naturally think, “Let’s just remove the deadlock,” but only having the standard Yale-type lock on there is not ideal either; you need two locks or an auto=deadlocking night latch.
If you want, you can have the standard or auto-locking Yale-type lock and the turn lock keyed alike, so you only need one key to operate both of them. This saves money on having to get two keys cut and also reduces the amount of keys you need to carry around on your key ring.
Additional Security for Communal Doors
Once the above issues with your communal door have been resolved, we also advise some other security devises that would take the security of your communal door to the next level.
Letter Box Guards
Letter box guards come in a few styles; one is the cage style and the other is the solid metal style. You can also get the bag style. All these styles of letter box guards protect against the main forms of attack from potential burglars.
Cage Style Letter Box Guard
Solid Metal Style
Bag Style Letter Box Guard
These letter box guards make it difficult for potential burglars to put anything through the letter box and fish items out of the property. They also make it difficult for burglars to look through the letter box and see if anyone is at home or if there is an alarm. They also help prevent burglars from putting anything through and possibly opening the lock.
London Bars and Birmingham Bars
We also advise a London bar, which is a strip of metal that goes down the locking side of the frame. It goes round the keep of the Yale-type lock or Cisa lock and runs the full length of the frame and is screwed in various different places. This helps tie the whole frame together. It goes down the frame and protects the mortice lock keep, which if it were forced, would split the frame around where it is fitted.
London Bar and Birmingham Bar
On the hinge side of the frame, we advise fitting a Birmingham bar, which helps protect the hinges. The Birmingham is a strip of metal that is screwed into place in various places, tying the whole hinge side of the frame together. If the hinges were attacked, the wood that the hinges is screwed into is forced out and splits the frame, but the Birmingham bar helps protect against this type of attack.
On the hinge side, we would advise what are called hinge bolts. These are fitted below the top hinge and above the bottom hinge. They are steel rods that are fitted in the door, and when the door shuts, it locks into a piece on the frame.
On the hinge side, we always advise hinge bolts,which lock permanently out. When the door closes, they lock into the frame. A Birmingham bar, which is another strip of metal, prevents the hinges from being forced out, kicked out or forced in. And of course, it helps reinforce the hinge side and the hinge bolts.
We want to make the communal door as secure as possible. So, the communal way is quiet a lot of the time; people are away most of the day, and burglars know this. Once they’re in, they can breakin through the communal door and shut it behind them.
Make sure you get that communal door really secure. Thank you.