Condo Unit Owner Changes Locks to Block HOA Access

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M.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The Association I belong to has a problem owner who has repeatedly changed her locks from the Association supplied locks to hardware from a home center. The building is on a master key system to ensure emergency maintenance and repairs can be done if she is not there. She claims this is illegal and lawfully we have no right to be able to access her unit even though our by-laws allow our entry in certain circumstances. We have drilled out the replaced locks, installed new hardware compatible with our master system and gave her the new keys only to have her replace the locks again. Is it legal for the Association to have access to her unit or is she right and we have no right to ever enter her unit unless she is home?

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., as is usually the case, you need to refer to the association’s governance documents on right of entry. Depending on your state, you may also need to refer to any local or state laws that may prohibit entry into the unit without the unit owner’s express consent. Both of those things being said, even if the association has the right to enter this recalcitrant unit owner isn’t likely to comply with the requirement and you may find the association needs to get a court order to make her comply. This is uncomfortable for all parties involved and can get expensive for both the association and the unit owner. My advice would be to speak to the association’s attorney and determine exactly what right the association has to access this and all units and make sure you aren’t in violation of local, state, or federal law. If not, then the Board needs to decide how important it is to have entry to the units and take appropriate action to secure that right. Good luck!

5 thoughts on “Condo Unit Owner Changes Locks to Block HOA Access

  1. Why not simply have a conversation with the owner — why does she have to be the ‘bad guy’ in this scenario — she may have a valid reason for not wanting to be on the ‘master lock’ system. Certainly, there is a work-around for this situation that can be developed by reasonable people who are willing to Talk to Each Other.

  2. I think the owner has every right to secure her unit, regardless of what the Declaration or Bylaws say. If I were her, I’d take the association to court, to settle the question. It’s actually quite baffling that the industry folks in this conversation don’t immediately empathize with the owner. No association should ever have that kind of power over its member owners.

  3. If the Association is trying to enter the unit for anything else besides emergencies that can be determined outside the unit like water flowing out of the unit or the unit below or beside it.. Or smoke coming from the unit which may damage other units etc would be two reasons. Another may be if you haven’t seen the owner in many days and newspapers and mail is piling up out side and you get no answer to their phone. But to go in to inspect it for no reason then that would be an invasion of privacy. Plus there should always be two people going in for those reasons. Not sending the maintenance man in for no reason. You are very correct on following the documents and state law first of all but they have room for interpretation where the Association attorney would need to be brought in. Just my opinion.

  4. I would have the board ask the attorney if the Association could make her sign some type of liability document to ensure that the Association would not be held liable should they not gain access in any emergency matter.

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