How your Condo Security Team can Help Reduce Liability
By: Kim Brown
Date Published: August 16, 2022
A significant portion of condo insurance claims arise from liability. While managers and boards do their best to ensure the property is safe for residents, it’s really hard to catch every issue that poses a safety or security risk.
Fortunately, having a dedicated security team onsite can mitigate risk and minimize injuries or physical security breaches.
Common condo liability risks
With so many people in one concentrated area, anything can happen in a condo community. But there are a few common liability issues that continue to plague associations:
- Theft (by guests, residents or staff)
- Injuries related to slips, trips and falls
- Water damage
Security professionals are best adept to prevent the first two from occurring, but there are situations where they may be able to help lessen the impact of the third.
Some real examples
A former maintenance worker who was hired by a condo in Massachusetts pleaded guilty to 23 charges connected to the theft of personal items, including cash, jewelry and heirlooms, from 19 residents over several years. The former employee was stealing and pawning the items to purchase drugs. He had a master key to all the condo units, which is how he was able to access the items so easily.
One resident became worried after noticing things were going missing. They set up a surveillance camera in their unit, and caught the employee stealing money.
In Ontario, a woman claimed that she slipped and fell on property belonging to a condo. The sidewalk was icy and the corporation had not salted or cleared the area, so she said. Even though the woman was adamant that she had hurt herself on condo property, the claim was unsuccessful (keep reading to find out why).
Liability issues are costly for associations
A condo’s insurance policy will cover common areas of the building. If there is a loss or injury in the gym or a hallway, the insurance will take care of legal costs, damages, and/or repairs. But the policy may also have a high deductible. The cost of the deductible may be split between all owners. Or, if one owner is liable for the injury or damage, they may be required to pay the entire deductible by themselves.
How a security team can reduce liability risks
Key tracking systems
No matter how expensive or small your condo community is, it needs a reliable key tracking system. That’s because unauthorized individuals can almost always find a way to obtain and misuse master keys. The outcomes generally aren’t as serious as the one experienced by the owners who lived in the Massachusetts condo, but in another community, a corporation had to pay over $30,000 to re-key its building after a master key was stolen from a fire safety box. The thief used it to gain entry to a storage locker and took a bike.
It’s not unusual for condos to put master keys in fire safety boxes in condo vestibules, and while these areas are considered semi-private, they offer little security if someone knows where to look. The boxes can be pried open without too much effort.
Some managers also create master keys and ask the locksmith to inscribe “do not duplicate” on the keys. But the message is seen as more of a recommendation than an order, and there are no laws that regulate the reproduction of these keys.
What condos really need to keep keys safe is a system for tracking keys. A security or concierge team can implement this process and ensure keys are only provided to authorized individuals.
The keys must be locked away in a secure spot. There are even hardware options designed specifically for condo key security. Some even use fingerprint readers and cameras. This way, there is a clear record of who took out a key last.
Security teams can also maintain a log of when keys are borrowed and returned. Condo Control’s security and concierge console makes it easy for teams to document this critical information. They may even require an ID and a signature before a key is handed over. This is useful for situations where keys must be loaned out to maintenance professionals or staff who don’t usually work in the building.
Of course, some condos may require concierge to escort third-party vendors to units, and lock up when they are done. Just knowing that a security staff member will see the unit before and after the vendor has completed their work can be enough to deter opportunists from taking something from an owner.
Security cameras and security logs
Security cameras can be invaluable to associations in certain situations. This was the case with the condo that was being accused of neglecting winter maintenance duties. The woman who alleged that she slipped and hurt herself on the property had to make a detailed report about where and when the fall occurred.
The condo had security cameras, and the concierge team kept detailed, preformatted logs that documented everything that occurred during their shifts. After going through the camera footage and checking the logs, the corporation could confidently argue that the woman did not have a slip and fall accident on the property. It turns out she had lied about the accident.
Not only can security witness and document events, but if they are scheduled to conduct regular patrols, they can look for unsafe conditions and have the issue resolved before someone gets hurt.
Speaking of scheduled patrols, security teams that use a guard tour system like Patrol Points are more likely to catch something like a broken water pipe, faulty component or broken glass than guards who do not regularly survey the building. Security supervisors have the ability to customize the route, start and end time, and how frequently routes should be repeated.
Checkpoints can be placed in shared amenity spaces, electric closets, boiler rooms, etc. so that security can regularly inspect equipment. If there is something wrong, the staff member can contact their supervisor and the building manager immediately.
Managing and caring for a condo community is exciting, but there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of. With so many people coming in and out of the building, there is also potential for accidents to occur. Security and concierge staff can help to keep people and the property safer by proactively looking out for potential liability issues.
Key security is a major concern for condo residents and board members. Having a dedicated team to release and secure keys can help to minimize the risk of them getting into the wrong hands. They can also document who takes keys out and collect IDs and signatures from vendors, realtors or dog walkers.
Slip and fall accidents can be prevented with an alert security team on the scene. Furthermore, false accusations can be dismissed with proper documentation.
Finally, residents can alert security staff if there is a flood or fire, but they may be able to catch small issues early on if they conduct regular patrols.
Most residents feel safer when security is present. Investing in a security team can save your association thousands of dollars, and give residents a greater sense of safety too.