While crime rates are steadily decreasing nationwide—even in the Big Apple—multiunit dwellings are often more difficult to 'police' due to the number of residents, visitors, delivery personnel and third party workers such as contractors. As a result, determining how and when a person accesses a building becomes a top priority for board members and management companies.
“Under the application of the Business Judgment Rule, the courts generally defer to the decisions of the boards of co-ops and condominiums to decide among other things, the operation of the property. Condo and co-op boards have authority to enact rules and regulations (condos) and house rules (co-ops),” says Dennis H. Greenstein, an attorney and partner at the New York-based law firm of Seyfarth Shaw. “Unless the courts find that the board or board members were acting in bad faith or discriminating, they defer to the provisions of the governing documents of the condos and co-ops, which grant the board’s authority to decide issues like access of unit owners, guests, workmen and others.”
With direction from the BCL, board members have a touch stone as to protocol, but the city of New York has also weighed in. “The city dictates that every apartment house six families and above must have a voice intercom with front door release to every unit,” says Matthew Arnold, president of the College Point, New York-based Academy Mailbox Co., Inc. “Many co-ops require that the front door stays locked—no door release—at all times and that every resident has to physically leave their unit to let a visitor or delivery person in.”
Arnold also points to a recently adopted law in Boston that requires every building with 10 or more units to require a video intercom. While it is yet to be a New York City requirement, he says the initiative is “very progressive.”
Who Should Get In?
With many buildings housing upwards of 50 units or more in New York City, ensuring the validity of “approved” visitors can become a gray issue, especially if the party in question is a non-frequent visitor.