Property Valuers & RICS Property Valuation

Don’t lock yourself out… or in!

It was a hot day and was doing the internal inspection of a vacant terrace house. I normally wear a light jacket where I keep some of the tools I frequently use throughout the survey, but it wasn’t comfortable this time and I decided to remove it and hang it to one of the staircase posts. I was trying to confirm if the windows had safety glazing and could not see any mark or stamp to confirm it. So, I decided to check if the marks were visible from the outside. I opened the front door and went straight to the front reception room window and while checking the glazing a gust of wind shut the front entrance door. I had locked myself out! The keys were in the jacket and this together with my tool bag and ladder were inside the house. There were no open windows or an unlocked door to the rear. What was I going to do to get back inside the property?

We surveyors work alone and have to be aware of the risks involved and take risk assessments when visiting properties, which I always follow. But this time I forgot something as important: Always take the house keys with me.

At least I had my mobile phone with me. I called the estate agent and explained what had happened, but they did not have a spare copy and the vendor lived in another town. The estate agent asked me to wait as they were going to contact the vendor anyway to see what could be done. Here I was, outside the house waiting and waiting and worried that I was no going to be able to be on time for my next survey appointment later that afternoon. I started to carry on with the inspection of the front external parts when the estate agent phoned me back with good news! The vendor was visiting the city and was not far from the house and was carrying a spare set of keys with her and she would be at the property within half an hour. This saved the day. Since then, when I am inspecting a vacant property, I always carry the house keys with me as I don’t want to be locked out again.

However, that is often not enough. You can also lock yourself inside a room; carrying the house keys with you will not always help. I learned my lesson the hard way. This time, when doing an internal survey inspection in a vacant property, I usually check the condition of the internal doors and locks. Closing and opening them to see if the doors close easily. I went inside one of the first-floor bedrooms and then closed the door. The lock was defective, and I had locked myself in. There was no way of getting out safely through the window. I looked around the room to see if there was a screwdriver or something that I could maybe use to open the door, but I found nothing. I have a small flat metal keyring with my house keys (that I always carry with me in my pocket) and attempted to use it to remove the screws of the door lock. It worked!. Once I removed the lock, I could now open the door and get out of the room. Since then, when inspecting internal doors, I now always check if the lock works first and then open and close the door when I am not inside the room.

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By Ramon Burgos – AssocRICS, DipHI.