Q: Several of us are having a problem with the Board of Directors about the manager having keys to our units. There are a number of reasons we don't want our keys in the office, security being one of the reasons. We understand the condominium association has the right to enter all units for safety and health. We are in an 11-story building and have recently installed cut off valves on the first floor units in case there is a water leak.
In case of fire, I don't think the fire department will need a key to enter a unit. All of us have put multiple locks on our door and have given the manager several telephone numbers to call for the combination of the lock. We feel we have complied with the law. I would appreciate your thoughts.
A: Boards of directors and managers should establish proper safety and security policy and control if they require keys to all the units. There are other reasons to make an emergency entry into units other than just water leaks. If entry is required immediately for a safety or security issue and a key or entry is not available, the board has a right to call a locksmith, call the fire department, and even break into the door. Any such expenses would be added to the unit owner's maintenance fees and expenses.
The board and manager need to establish a secure key policy. That policy would include some type of key safe and who has access to that safe. A log should be kept for when a key is required for entry, with the reason and who used the key recorded. I would further establish that a two-person policy would be required to open the key safe and to remove and use the key to enter the unit. In addition a written notice should be given to the owner that the apartment was entered and what the reason was.
Say you do not provide a key and you're not available. The board must call the fire department to break down your door. What have you prevented as others now have access to your unit?
In the past as a manager, I suggested that owners provide a key placed in a small sealed envelope that is marked only for emergency entry. Then periodically every few weeks they should come into the office to confirm that the key is still sealed.
Q: My condominium has a unit owner interested in volunteering. He wants to clean out the gutters on the one story clubhouse (about 12 feet off the ground) and do some landscaping. Is there any liability issue the board should be concern?
A: If you can guarantee that he will not be injured or cause damage to property, you'll be in the clear. Of course you cannot guarantee there will be no accidents or mistakes.
Volunteers are good because it gives retirees something to do. The problem is you let one accident happen and it will create a serious liability for the community and board of directors. Before you let any volunteer do work for the community I would suggest you talk with your insurance agent and your attorney.