A Serious Security and Safety Concern in Residential Condominiums
By Ken Shibasaki, Senior Analyst Riskboss Inc.
Illegal Fob Copying Services
There has been a growing and disturbing security and safety trend in the residential condominium industry in the GTA: the illegal copying and counterfeiting of access fobs. This is nothing new as it is a worldwide phenomenon that has taken hold here in the GTA very quickly, with numerous websites and many services currently in operation. In a CBC report that was published on June 20, 2017, reporters went undercover and were able to duplicate borrowed fobs for two prominent residential condominium towers in seconds with no questions asked and no identification provided. The Internet is littered with GTA locations where you can get building and garage access fobs duplicated at a fraction of the cost that property management offices charge.
Safety and Security Risk
The emergence of so many companies illegally duplicating access fobs raises serious concerns of unregistered short-term renters, building technicians, tradespersons and would-be criminals gaining unauthorized access to residential condominium communities. Such access creates a security nightmare for condominium boards, property managers and security companies.
This safety concern is precisely the reason why the majority of residential condominium corporations in the GTA have Declarations and Building Rules prescribing that the corporation, through property management, is the only source for obtaining access fobs that is allowed as well as limiting the number of fobs that individual residents are allowed.
Many residents complain that condominiums charge far too much for access fobs often in excess of $75 and that is why they go to other sources for cheaper alternatives. Many clients of such establishment engage in unregistered short term rentals. Handing off an illegal fob to a short term rental client who may or may not return an illegal fob that costs virtually nothing may not seem like a big deal but from a community risk perspective, it is.
Bryan Jones who is an access technology expert that has years of experience in specializing in residential condominium access control systems in the GTA, explains the risks of using access fob copying services:
“Access fobs can be easily cloned and can be used in addition to authorized access fobs without leaving a separate trace or signature. Fobs are copied by way of cloning the parent fob access number into a blank fob copy. You cannot tell one fob from another when it is being used. I would be very reluctant as an owner to bring my access fob to be copied by such establishments.”
Expert condominium lawyer, Gerald Miller and managing partner of Gardiner Miller Arnold LLP discusses the legalities of copying access fobs:
“The use of counterfeit key fobs in condominiums creates a significant security risk for all owners and residents and is certainly in contravention of the condominium corporation’s Rules and operating procedures. Duplicating fobs is also likely in contravention of copyright and patent laws. What must be remembered is that buying fake fobs creates a crack in community security and compromises the safety of all residents. It is certainly ill-advised.”
Riskboss recommends the following action plan for dealing with this disturbing trend:
- Ensure your condominium community has an up-to-date Comprehensive Risk Assessment conducted by an industry accredited professional
- Streamline and simplify the access fob registration and activation process for all residents
- Institute an access fob registration process that assigns a resident’s picture to the access fob registered
- Make access fob costs reasonable
- Communicate to residents that access fob duplication is not permitted
- Communicate to residents that the condominium corporation, through property management, is the exclusive distributor of access fobs
- Implement regular, routine and ad hoc access fob audits
- Advise security to be vigilant that only recognized residents have access fobs and to challenge strangers
- When illegal access fobs are found, all fobs assigned to the offending resident(s) should immediately be deactivated
- Have management follow up with offending residents
- Trades that require access fobs must follow a registration process and must return all access fobs at the end of each day
- Deactivate all access fobs the day residents moves out
- Check illegal access fob copying websites that list residential condominium communities where fobs have been copied
- Have management contact offending fob copying services to cease and desist copying their access fobs when known