While crime rates are steadily decreasing nationwide—even in the tri-state area—multifamily dwellings are often more difficult to 'police' due to the number of residents, visitors, delivery personnel, and third-party workers such as contractors constantly coming and going at all hours. As a result, determining how and when people are accessing your building becomes a top priority for board members and management companies.
“Under the application of the Business Judgment Rule (generally known as the BCL), the courts generally defer to the decisions of the boards of the community associations to decide among other things, the operation of the property,” says Dennis H. Greenstein, an attorney and partner at the New York-based law firm of Seyfarth Shaw. “Boards have authority to enact rules and regulations and house rules. Unless the courts find that the board or board members were discriminating or acting in bad faith, they defer to the provisions of the governing documents of the associations, 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 touchstone as to how to handle protocol in their own community, but frequently the municipality will weigh in as well. For example, “The city or town may dictate that every apartment house a certain number of 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 associations 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 common requirement, he says the initiative is “very progressive.”
Who Should Get In?
With many buildings housing upwards of 50 units or more in parts of New Jersey, ensuring the validity of “approved” visitors can become a gray issue, especially if the party in question is a non-frequent visitor.