Accessing Units Balancing Privacy and Expediency

Owning a unit in a multifamily co-op or condo carries a great many benefits in the form of shared responsibilities, but it also requires compromises along the lines of control: what your board, management, and building staff can or cannot do. One area where such compromises have the potential to lead to uncomfortable conflicts is the issue of how, when, and under what circumstances residents must grant management or staff access to the unit for maintenance, inspections, and at times emergencies when the owner may not choose or even be present. 

How can building managers and board members minimize the concerns of nervous owners who refuse access to their units? These necessary negotiations often have clear protocols enshrined in a building or HOA’s governing documents (and sometimes even local housing codes), but respectful practices of engagement and education around the boundaries that exist can minimize tension, promote transparency, and make a difference in a building culture. 

Codes of Conduct and Where to Find Them

Entering privately owned homes when their owners aren’t present is sometimes necessary for maintenance purposes, and to make repairs quickly in the case of unexpected mishaps.  

“I think it’s important to remember when people buy an apartment in a multi-unit building, they are buying into the notion that their apartment will be inspected or repaired by building management as part of the communal contract of co-op or condo living. The unit is not exclusively the owner’s domain – it’s not sacrosanct,” says Mindy H. Stern, a partner at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, LLP in New York City. “Responsible management companies work out a reasonable protocol protecting property and owners.” 

These intrusions, planned or otherwise, can cause anxiety in owners, but respect of the protocol can go a long way in settling that unease. Where can a management team look to make sure they are creating a reasonable and respectful way of carrying out their side of the co-op or condo ownership bargain? 

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