I'm stuck in my flat
November 23, 2009 12:57 PM   Subscribe

The electric gate into our block of flats has malfunctioned and nobody can move their cars in or out. It's nearly 9PM here in the UK and we can't get hold of our landlord or the building company. If, come morning, we can't get our cars out of the car park can we (legally) charge someone (anyone?!) for the taxi journeys we're going to have to take instead?

(There's moisture in one of the safety sensors and it's stopping the gate from operating, I'm working on a solution to dry it out.)
posted by alby to Law & Government (28 answers total)
 
At my apartment complex, someone usually just pries the gate open.
posted by muddgirl at 12:59 PM on November 23, 2009


yeah, pry the gates. feign ignorance. they'll have to foot the repair bill for that. they probably won't for your taxis.
posted by nadawi at 1:04 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you post the model number here? There is often a manual override.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:06 PM on November 23, 2009


Prying is the common sense answer and, in a surveillance-state like England, probably a bad idea. Can you track down emergency contacts or an answering service for the landlord/building company via their websites?
posted by codswallop at 1:11 PM on November 23, 2009


Prying = criminal damage.
posted by grouse at 1:13 PM on November 23, 2009


I don't know the legalities about the taxis, but then again, you're not going to want to let this get to the stage where the legalities are challenged in court, so it's probably not all that relevant. If you end up having to take taxis, definitely invoice whoever is responsible for maintaining the gate, adopting a suitably officious tone that assumes their liability. I've done this in various contexts in the past, and it works about half the time.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:17 PM on November 23, 2009


(it would probably help if you could leave voicemail messages for the relevant party, explaining that you will have no option but to take taxis if the gate isn't fixed. Even if they don't hear them till it's too late, it shows you tried.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:18 PM on November 23, 2009


Prying = criminal damage.

And keeping someone and their property inside a locked gate that they can't open isn't, you know, criminal?

I'm not saying prying open a gate should be the first action, but it looks like the OP has already called the manager and the building owner, as well as tried to open the gate without breaking it. Calling the cops may be a good next step.
posted by muddgirl at 1:20 PM on November 23, 2009


Can you post the model number here?

Can't see one anywhere. Can't even find a manufacturer's name.
posted by alby at 1:27 PM on November 23, 2009


It would probably help if you could leave voicemail messages for the relevant party, explaining that you will have no option but to take taxis if the gate isn't fixed.

I've left messages with both the landlord and the housing company.
posted by alby at 1:28 PM on November 23, 2009


Would a squirt of WD-40 in the sensor/s be a good idea?
posted by Dr.Pill at 1:33 PM on November 23, 2009


The safety sensor likely either works by closing or opening the circuit - can you just unplug it and/or short the wires?
posted by ydant at 1:37 PM on November 23, 2009


We are usually able to find a bolt or two to undo which allows us to open the gate by hand and SECURELY tie it up until it can be repaired. Not criminally damaging.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:39 PM on November 23, 2009


And keeping someone and their property inside a locked gate that they can't open isn't, you know, criminal?

No. First: the person is not stuck inside, just their car. Second: I am aware of no offense that covers unintentionally (or even negligently) temporarily trapping someone's car in a garage due to a equipment failure. It certainly is not one of the well-known crimes that require some degree of intentionality, and I find it hard to believe that it would be a strict liability crime. Third: even if the landlord were somehow committing a crime, two wrongs do not make a right, and it would not provide a lawful excuse to intentionally committing criminal damage.

If you don't hear from them, take a taxi. If you they don't reimburse you, the process for filing a small claim in England is very easy—you can even do it online. I guarantee you it is easier than dealing with a criminal charge.
posted by grouse at 1:40 PM on November 23, 2009


Is there are "non-emergency" line to the police you can call in your area?

(However, "criminal" damage might make the landlord/building company more responsive next time this happens. Night time with ski mask, just saying.)
posted by spaltavian at 1:43 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's GOT to be a way to manually open the gate - I mean what would you be expected to do when the world ends and the power goes off?

Some kind of pin to pull that connects the gate to the motor - something!
posted by DandyRandy at 1:45 PM on November 23, 2009


Extension cord + hair dryer on the sensor?
posted by jferg at 1:45 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's GOT to be a way to manually open the gate - I mean what would you be expected to do when the world ends and the power goes off?

The gate is locked magnetically. If the power goes off, it would swing open. There's a junction box type thing but it's locked and the cables run through the wall so I can't get at them.
posted by alby at 1:50 PM on November 23, 2009


Extension cord + hair dryer on the sensor?

That's the sort of solution I'm working on. I've rubberbanded a handwarming pack to the sensor.
posted by alby at 1:51 PM on November 23, 2009


Isn't it a liability to the owner if there is a medical or fire emergency and the police or ambulance are unable to get into area? You should mention this concern on your next voicemail or when you call the police.
posted by eatcake at 1:53 PM on November 23, 2009


Isn't it a liability to the owner if there is a medical or fire emergency and the police or ambulance are unable to get into area?

There is a switch labelled "FIRE CONTROL" but the cables are recessed and I don't have a key that'll fit it.
posted by alby at 2:01 PM on November 23, 2009


So call the fire department.
posted by electroboy at 2:10 PM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


There is a switch labelled "FIRE CONTROL" but the cables are recessed and I don't have a key that'll fit it.

Do your local fire brigade have a non-emergency number? I mean, they rescue people from broken lifts, so if they're not busy they might be able to send someone out with a key. Hell, if they're sitting around all day waiting for fires that don't happen, they might be downright bored.

The gate is locked magnetically. If the power goes off, it would swing open.

I've seen people get through doors with magnetic locks by simply pushing them hard. Afterwards, the door swings shut and the (undamaged) magnet re-engages. So you may be able to pry it open without damage. Of course, it's possible that the locks I have seen were not powerful enough; the one on your gate may be more powerful.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:18 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


This certainly does represent a hazard to both life and property.

I'd call the FD or police. In the U.S. they are required by law to have access to such devices. Many times it is a "lockbox" on the outside of a building.

What if someone in the complex has a stroke or some other debillitating event? Deliveries?

I'll bet by now the problem is solved and someone called the authorities.
posted by private_idaho at 2:45 PM on November 23, 2009


I'm free!

A combination of the heat and gentle tapping has cleared enough condensation for the sensor to start working. Now I just have to pray for an absence of rain in the near future!

Thanks, Mefi.
posted by alby at 2:45 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


next time, instead of becoming an expert in gate repair, you could just call some kind of locksmith or garage door company. Then send the landlord your bill and arrange to withhold that amount from your next rent check.
posted by cbecker333 at 3:30 PM on November 23, 2009


If it happens again find the power supply and shut it off, most electric gates automatically open when the power is cut.
posted by flummox at 4:19 PM on November 23, 2009


next time, instead of becoming an expert in gate repair, you could just call some kind of locksmith or garage door company. Then send the landlord your bill and arrange to withhold that amount from your next rent check.

While I concede that getting the thing fixed properly will be more difficult when temporary fixes are free, your solution is really obscenely bureaucratic. Good on you, alby, for figuring it out!
posted by Chuckles at 7:22 PM on November 23, 2009


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