Normally, I only accept service calls from rental property tenants when I have an established relationship with the property manager or owner.
However, this past weekend brought a call from a single mother who had a justifiable concern about the security of her apartment through the attic equipment service scuttle.
She occupied one unit in a multi-unit building and heard odd noises in the ceiling. She was concerned someone could enter the apartment through the service scuttle in the closet.
Most contemporay multi-unit buildings have attic space firewall partitions between units as required by municipal fire codes so unauthorized entry by a human critter was, to my mind, unlikely.
I thought it more probable some outdoor critter from the wild had found their way into the attic and agreed to make a quick assessment of the situation for her.
As it happens, however, older buildings are “grandfathered” in to the fire code of their time and may never have been retrofited to contemporary requirements.
That was exactly the case for this woman. Her apartment was one of several units enclosed in one building each of which had a good old fashioned framed drop-in plywood service scuttle in the closet.
There was no firewall partition between individual units in the attic space.
Anyone from any unit could access any other unit in that building with minimal effort (or evidence!) through the closet scuttle conveniently provided in each unit. When the building was built (probably in the 1950’s) it simply would not occur to anyone to break into another apartment in that fashion.
Why a burglar could get shot doing stuff like that.
Nowadays, in an age when we all scrupulously lock and deadbolt our household entry doors it seems almost reckless not to barricade a service scuttle.
In this case I fastened a temporary board across the opening into the ceiling joists with some long screws so she and her child would be secure until the Maintenance Crew installed a proper lockable access door.
Oh, the noises she heard? Probably just a technician stringing cable for a computer or Television hookup. This time.
Let’s all be careful out there.