Dear Tony: How does a strata corporation manage access to common areas that contain mechanical equipment or are not intended for recreational or casual use?
We have a council member who is insisting that he be given keys to our electrical rooms, elevator shafts, boiler rooms and rooftop.
Our 30-floor highrise has complicated operating systems. The only services on our rooftop are our fresh-air intake and hallway blower system. Our roof does not have guard rails and because of the wind, can be extremely dangerous at times.
Our building manager has access to these areas and escorts contractors and service technicians when they require access. We have intentionally restricted keys and access to only the building manager and property manager to maintain security and safety.
The council member is threatening legal action if we don’t give him keys and access. How do we handle this?
No council member has the exclusive right of access to the common-service facilities of a highrise or apartment building. Who has access, how the areas are accessed and the procedures for access are all set by the strata council.
This is a majority-vote decision at a council meeting. You may want to develop your policy into a published rule the owners approve at a general meeting. This would require that the policies you set be maintained in the future.
Your obligation as a strata council is to act in the best interest of the strata owners and tenants, and to maintain and repair common assets and common property. Maintenance includes ensuring the security of your assets.
You must also ensure activities comply with fire-safety regulations, building codes, local government bylaws and provincial regulations administered through Technical Safety B.C. and WorkSafe. Unless a council member is escorting a service technician, inspector or emergency personnel, there should be no reason to access your building systems.
Either the property manager or council will be responsible for verifying service reports and logs to approve invoicing and payments. Copies of these reports should be included on invoicing to support approval.
Access to elevator shafts or your fire-safety systems for servicing is only by certified technicians under contract. The same conditions should apply to roofing systems.
Volunteer council members, owners and tenants are not covered by WorkSafe. In the event of an injury or fatality, the strata corporation will bear the liability of related claims. The limited coverage for such liability under your strata insurance policy is only for general volunteer maintenance.
The whole point of living in a strata corporation is for the collective benefits of contracting services. When you live in a multi-family building, the regulatory authorities apply much higher standards of care and safety.
Access to rooftops not intended for occupancy must be restricted. While everyone is lured by the chance of a rooftop seat for events such as the annual fireworks festival, it’s not worth risking damage to roofing systems or a tragic accident.
The combination of an unprotected area and alcohol will never end well. It is your duty as the corporation and council to maintain the security of your building systems. Convene a council meeting and establish procedures and policies for access to operational facilities.
Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.