Outside the box

Lobby Box addresses condo obstacles

Condominium corporation rules surrounding key-storage systems that provide real estate professionals and their buyers with access to properties for sale are often creating unsafe conditions, say industry officials.

“The condominium corporation prescribes where the lockbox may be placed according to condo bylaws, and it’s not always in the most ideal location in terms of safety,” said Lisa Roberts, manager of Member Programs at CREB®.

“In this situation, safety can be viewed through two aspects – in cold weather, having to walk down an alleyway where the pavement is icy, or through an area that is not well lit or well trafficked in order to retrieve the keys and show the property that is listed for sale.”

CREB® launched an alternative solution in 2012. Called Lobby Box, the two-pronged entry system includes a single lockbox near the front entrance to allow entry into the building, while a second lockbox is placed on the unit for sale.

With each suite’s lockbox located on its front door, the program eliminates the need for multiple lockboxes outside the building – a common concern among condominium corporations. It also creates safer entry for real estate professionals by placing the lobby box in a well-lit, well-trafficked, agreed-upon location, noted Roberts.

In addition, there is no cost to the condominium association or board, which is provided both with the necessary hardware and the services of an installer.

“We’ve worked hard to think outside the box,” said Roberts. “We looked at how we can work within the confines of condo bylaws, meet the needs of the condo board, ensure the property and premises are neat and attractive and meet the needs of the real estate professional to be safe, while keeping the system simple.”

Currently, 58 buildings in Calgary are participating in the program, and CREB® is in talks with an additional eight to 10 properties to adopt the system.

In addition to Calgary, several other cities participate in similar initiatives, including Victoria.

“Our goal is to double our numbers within the next 18 months,” said Roberts.

For liability reasons, real estate lawyer Jeff Kahane says it makes perfect sense for condo boards to adopt the Lobby Box program.

“It’s up to the board to keep everything secure. If they know there’s a problem and they don’t do anything about it, you run into liability issues,” he said. “If the REALTOR® knows there’s a problem and they put in the key to the unit in the lockbox, they could end up with the liability for a broken-in apartment.”

Two of Kahane’s clients had units broken into on Memorial Drive recently.

“A lot of people who move into a new home don’t change the locks, but that’s what they should be doing,” he said. “If a REALTOR® is listing a property and it doesn’t have a lobby box, it’s worthwhile contacting the condo management company and recommending it to them.

“This is an important issue which should be brought to the attention of more property managers and developers.”

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