Condo Super Careless With the Condo Keys

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C.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, Mister Condo! My careless superintendant, who resides on the premises, was not on-site when a unit owner accidentally locked themselves out of their condo unit. They called the superintendant for their spare key. He told this person how to get into the secured area where all unit owners spare keys are held, which they did. The only people allowed to access that area would be the superintendent and board members, I was told. Since this superintendent gave this person access to all keys, I have to assume the superintendent has done this for others, as well. So, for safety reasons, I would like my locks changed in case a duplicate key was made, etc.. The condo board doesn’t want to pay for my new lock. Do I have any rights? Aren’t they liable and shouldn’t they pay for a new lock for my personal unit door? In today’s world, you can’t trust anyone. The likelihood someone duplicated my key might be slim but is a risk I don’t want to take. I have no idea who else has been given access by the superintendent when he wasn’t around. It could have been contractors, other unit owners, and God knows who else. I hope you can help me! Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

C.L., I am sorry to hear about the carelessness with which your association is guarding your and all your fellow unit owner’s keys. In most associations, those keys would be labeled and stored in a very secure lockbox with extremely limited access by just a few members. Your chief complaint is with the Board and you would do well to alert all of your neighbors of their carelessness. It is not a question of “if” but rather “when” a security breach will occur. It might be against you or it might be against your neighbor.

The city of Florissant, Missouri issued the following statement regarding a rash of burglaries in their city where entrance to condo units was gained by stolen keys. I think it is solid advice for any condo Board to follow if they wish to protect the sanctity of the keys and to avoid being taken to court for not doing so.

Improper attention to the issue of keys can lead to a burglary. The following are

suggestions to better insure keys are properly controlled:

  • When a new tenant or owner moves into an apartment or condominium, all exterior doors should be rekeyed;
  • Tenants and owners should keep their keys secured at all times. They should take their keys with them when they leave the apartment or condominium and keep them in their pocket or purse;
  • Keys should never be loaned, particularly where strangers are involved. Apartment or condominium keys should be placed on a dual key ring that will permit easy separation from the car key. When keys are surrendered in connection with service or valet parking, only the car keys should be left.
  • Keys and key rings should not be marked or identified in such a way so they can be traced to the owner. Some vehicle manufacturers and vehicle credit companies offer a lost key service that utilizes a serialized key tag. When installed on the key ring, postage cost to the service is guaranteed and upon receipt of the lost keys, the service notifies the owner of the recovery.
  • Finally, lost or stolen keys should be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency immediately. The affected exterior door locks should be rekeyed as soon as possible —— particularly if the keys were stolen.

If your Board needs further convincing, show them this newspaper clipping. The article details a $600,000.00 theft from a highly secured condo where a stolen key was used to enter the unit. There is history of burglary from copied keys that are not properly secured. There is also history of courts awarding unit owners damages from improperly stored keys where the careless storage of keys leads to a loss.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1291&dat=19970131&id=dylUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kI4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6588,3717451

Diligence is your ally here, C.L.. The bottom line is that the Board needs to take action and sooner rather than later would be my advice. Hit them with the facts and take action if they don’t respond. My guess is that they will see the light and order the superintendant to be far more careful in how he guards the keys. All the best!

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