These Q&As are about the Master Key System.
- QUESTION: Can our body corporate enter our lot for a fire safety check whether we are home or not?
- QUESTION: If a master key is held by a responsible body corporate member will this effect our insurance for either the body corporate or the individual owners?
- QUESTION: Should our building manager have access to all apartments with a master key? What about owner-occupied lots, in case of emergency?
- QUESTION: I’m concerned about our Master Key System. Should all committee members have their own master key?
Question: Can our body corporate enter our lot for a fire safety check whether we are home or not?
As a lot owner, we’ve been informed that fire safety checks will be carried out in our building on a particular day. We cannot refuse entry to our apartment or change the date or time. They will knock before entering but will enter, whether we are at home or not.
Most owners were surprised to find that the body corporate has keys and supposedly the right to access our properties without our permission when we are away. Is this legal?
There could be kids home alone. Last time these checks were done, someone’s wife was asleep in bed and was woken by random people wandering through her bedroom.
Answer: Routine maintenance is mandatory under the legislation and how compliance is achieved differs between Body Corporates.
Without the information about the equipment that is meant to service it is difficult to comment.
However, in most apartment buildings, this relates to Fire Doors or it could be the buildings Fire Detection System if installed to AS1670.
In regards to access to the units for testing smoke detectors, this can not be avoided as 50% of smoke detectors and 25% of thermal detectors must be tested each year. This is usually arranged by testing odd unit numbers one year and even the next.
In respect of the fire door maintenance, this should not require access to the internal part of the unit i.e. bedrooms etc as this only requires the inspection of the entry door and should not take more than a few minutes.
We can not comment on the legality of the Body Corporate having keys to an apartment or demanding access. However routine maintenance is mandatory under the legislation and how compliance is achieved differs between Body Corporates.
This post appears in the November 2021 edition of The QLD Strata Magazine.
Question: If a master key is held by a responsible body corporate member will this affect our insurance for either the body corporate or the individual owners?
Could you please explain if a master key is held by a responsible body corporate member will this affect our insurance either for the body corporate and individual owners?
Answer: It will depend entirely on the policy you are seeking cover for.
Frank Higginson: If there are multiple master keys out there, it is very hard to pinpoint who has misused it if that ever occurs.
Tyrone Shandiman: It will depend entirely on the policy you are seeking cover for.
In a review of the strata insurance policies we offer clients we are not aware of any conditions which are less favourable where the master key is held by a body corporate member. Notwithstanding, there are limits that apply for re-keying (for example $5,000) if the keys are stolen in certain events.
Contents insurance may have a requirement that there are visible signs of forced entry in the event of theft.
This information is of a general nature only and neither represents nor is intended to be personal advice on any particular matter. Shandit Pty Ltd T/as Strata Insurance Solutions strongly suggests that no person should act specifically on the basis of the information in this document, but should obtain appropriate professional advice based on their own personal circumstances and the specific coverage afforded under their policy wording. Shandit Pty Ltd T/As Strata Insurance Solutions is a Corporate Authorised Representative (No. 404246) of Insurance Advisernet Australia AFSL No 240549, ABN 15 003 886 687.
Question: Should our building manager have access to all apartments with a master key? What about owner-occupied lots, in case of emergency?
Should our caretaker / building manager have access to all apartments with a master key? What about owner-occupied lots, in case of emergency?
We suspect our caretaker of using unoccupied apartments (he lives off-site) when it suits him.
We want to change the lock on our fireproof door. Can we do this to ensure our privacy, and do we need body corporate approval?
Answer: No. There is a specific notice and authorisation procedure that needs to be followed.
No – access can only be on behalf of the body corporate or on behalf of the owner in their capacity as letting agent. In both cases, there is a specific notice and authorisation procedure that needs to be followed.
Yes, you would need approval by the committee to change the lock and you need to ensure that any changes meet the relevant fire safety requirements for your building.
This post appears in Strata News #280
Question: I’m concerned about our Master Key System. Should all committee members have their own master key?
Recently, our committee chairperson resigned to become an ordinary member and another person was elected to the chairmanship. At the time, the former chairperson handed over to the new chairperson a master key which, via the Master Key System, allowed access to all parts of the building including owner apartments. At the time, the former chairperson mentioned to everyone at the meeting his having the key(s) was the source of concern for a number of owners.
In the very next meeting, the former chairperson proposed that ALL committee members be issued a master key(s) on the basis, despite us a having a full time on-site manager, they might need to get into an apartment or anywhere else in the building to assist someone who might have fallen over in the shower or equally odd reasons.
As a non-committee member attending the meeting, I wasn’t allowed to speak about this until the meeting closed and a final motion had been passed to update the Master Key System and grant a master key(s) to the Chairperson and one other committee member – surprise, surprise, that key went to our former chairperson who’d originally held such a key and handed it in.
I’ve since written to our committee advising I’d believed they’d stepped over the mark passing a motion that involved significant security and privacy considerations for owners without owner consultation. I also advised if anyone but the building manager entered my apartment without my express permission will have trespassed on my property.
Answer: Do you want people you do not know to have access to your lot?
An oldie but a goodie.
My take on the Master Key System is that it is best that only one person has a master key. Usually, that person is best being the building manager, but if the committee wants to, then it should be one committee member only. The reality is that in a building with a manager, he or she is the one that will need it to get around to do whatever with it. A committee member usually doesn’t have the same need to get into common property facilities.
The reason that only one person should have it is that a single person is accountable for the use of it. If there are several master keys floating around, anyone holding one of them can get in anywhere. If something untoward was to happen (i.e. theft etc) there would be no ability to hold anyone accountable for that. If there was only one master key, it is pretty obvious who used it – or allowed access to it for use.
In addition, if a master key is lost, the cost of rekeying can potentially be large. With more master keys lurking around, the prospects of losing one increase.
There is almost never going to be a need to access a lot urgently. There is a mechanism under the Act to allow access for bodies corporate to lots. If there is a fear that someone has fallen over in the shower etc, that is what the police are for. No one should ever enter a lot without the permission of the owner. A committee member has no right to do so at all, and a resident manager may have a right to do so for lots they manage for the owner under a proper letting authority subject to the tenancy arrangement that is in place. But for owners who do not rent their units through the manager, there is no right for anyone associated with the body corporate to just access their lot.
As an aside, my parents live in a unit and at one stage they were quite sure someone used a master key to access their lot. They installed an additional lock in their door which then required another key to open it which ensured that only they could access their lot. Leaving aside the fact that the door was common property, and whatever fire safety issues they then might not comply with, they feel much more secure. The circumstances described which we are responding to would only drive them to be happier with their decision.
To me it comes down to a pretty simple question – do you want people you do not know to have access to your lot?
This post appears in Strata News #107
Have a question about your Master Key System or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
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