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The Condominium Security Spectrum: Is any property 100% secure?

Repair broken locks.
Add an additional dead bolt to your door.

Security covers a broad spectrum. Much like perfection or happiness, we pursue it, but never really reach the 100% mark. In other words, every action taken to secure your property is a step closer to safety. No action is ever wasted. At the same time there is always more that can be done. For example, adding lighting is a simple thing that can create an environment that will be less likely to be a crime scene, but lighting with motion detectors is even better. How ‘bout surveillance equipment, cameras, monitors, or a security guard? A fence, a keypad with a gate arm, barbed wire? Whoa, we’re trying to secure a condominium property here, not a prison. We have beautification and an aesthetic to keep in balance. Maximum security prisons have had breaches. And no one is supposed to be able to penetrate a maximum-security prison, right?! The fact is someone always seems to find an opening. Just watch the news and you are bound to see a story every now and then about the one that got away from a supposed maximum-security prison. Ok, so I’ve diverted from the matter at hand, back to the topic on how to maximize condo security.


First off, a property manager, its trustee board, and its management company should always be seeking ways of improving security. Despite it being impossible to being full proof, it’s important to have a security system in place or a plan to do so, even if you must piece-meal it at its onset due to budget restrictions. And if there is no budget, it's time to make one. It’s vital for a condo association to have a security budget not just for annual improvements, but additional funds added to replacement reserves for replacement items as well.

A good condo security system includes both electric and physical security hardware and a personal security routine communicated via newsletters, memos, and meetings. As for equipment, locks should be on every window and door. Alarms, cameras, outdoor lighting and motion sensors should be part of the security plan. Homeowners and staff should be advised to lock up, activate alarms, charge security cameras, and clear the pathway for camera lenses. Outdoor lighting should be on at dusk and bulbs should be replaced when needed. Motion detectors should be inspected regularly for connection to the alarm system.


Collaboration and common sense on everyone’s part goes a long way. Here’s some suggestions for residents:


  • If unit owners own their own door, they should check to see that their unit entry door deadbolt has full clearance in the latch hole in the door frame.  If the dead bolt does not go all the way, the locking mechanism may not prevent the bolt from slowly being pushed back with a screwdriver, should an intruder be able to pry his way in.

  • Owners should consider consulting with a locksmith and looking into the possibility of a second deadbolt. This would provide an extra defense.  By purchasing a deadbolt similar to the one already in place, the locksmith can adjust the second lock to be used by the same key as the original lock.  A locksmith may recommend other options as well. 

  • Owners planning to be away shouldn’t leave any clues. Having neighbors pick up any newspapers, memos, leaflets, etc. from the front door is a good idea. Under no circumstances, should keys be left under doormats.

  • When a resident door buzzer rings, it’s important for residents to take the time to speak to the person at the other end of the buzzer to identify the visitor by voice, before letting anyone into the building. And residents should be encouraged to have their buzzers repaired if they’re not working properly.


When deciding what security solutions to invest in, consider the expense, effort, and liability, and how residents will be affected by the same. Burglars, natural disasters, fire, squatting, air quality, package theft, and scams are what owners and insurance companies are concerned about. Vigilance contributes significantly to keeping people safe and property secure. Inexpensive equipment can often save an association from an expensive lawsuit. For example, a working and charged CO detector can prevent people from serious disease caused by exposure to harmful carbon monoxide gas. Whereas a detector that’s broken in the home of a person who becomes ill, is grounds for a lawsuit for negligence, which is not only sad, but expensive. When it comes to radon or mold, get the building tested, get it cleaned, and make the repairs, before the lawsuits fly.


Regarding potential crime, when in doubt, everyone should feel comfortable calling the police. The old cliché, Better to be safe than sorry applies.  Advise people to be vigilant, if they see something, they should say something. Tell them never to assume someone else will call the police. Tell them to just dial 911, when in doubt. Had the first four people who heard the screams at the property, where I worked once, contacted the police when they heard and saw suspicious things, they may have prevented a rape murder.


The "experts" say that the best security is everybody in the community working together to become aware of all security risks. Asking your community to participate in cooperation to help keep the neighborhood as safe as possible is productive. The weakest link in the chain is the individual who does not pay attention to these concerns. -D.S. Marquis

D.S. Marquis is a retired property manager, paralegal, teacher, and the author of the 1980s book, Of School and Women.


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