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New condo buyers beware

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New condominium buildings are often hit hard by burglars. So what makes new construction so appealing to the "bad guys?" The answer is simple: easy access. Many condominium builders today are missing crucial vulnerabilities in building security.

In all fairness, the blame needs to be shared with city architects and engineers. Cities need to meet with security professionals to upgrade minimal security requirements in their building codes. These upgrades would take a huge bite out of crime for condominium owners.

So why aren't the building codes reviewed and updated more often? After all, the main purposes of building codes are to protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to construction and occupancy of buildings and structures.

What better way to protect the public than to recognize and implement positive change to the building laws? So why don't cities make the necessary changes to the security building requirements? How hard is it to review a few proposed common sense changes to the building codes?

Changes would harden up the targeted common areas around the exterior and interior of buildings. Grade one locking hardware combined with superior door closers would be a great starting point. Or perhaps the elimination of keys and unnecessary hardware on exterior doors would provide tougher barriers.

All too often new condominium purchasers get stuck holding the bag with the cost of security upgrades. In all likelihood, builders will wait for the city to make the first move before tightening up the ship. So how do new homeowners protect themselves in the meantime?

My recommendation to new condominium buyers is to form a council as soon as possible. This starts with the first annual general meeting (AGM), which usually takes place within the first year of registration of the strata plan or when the building ownership tops 51 per cent.

Once the members of the council have been elected, proper documentation in the form of "minutes" by council will be available to existing and potential new home buyers. Each and every violation should be documented in the minutes.

The minutes will act as a catalyst for improvements to condominium security by allowing potential new home buyers to hone in on the buildings security deficiencies before placing ink to paper. The minutes are often the window needed to project a clear snapshot of how many violations the building has experienced over a period of time.

Obviously the more break and enters, the weaker the security. This knowledge gives the new purchasers the upper hand when negotiating security improvements with the builder. The builder will then be forced to improve the security of the building if he or she wants to sell the remaining apartments.

And if you are at the preliminary stages of forming your building's council, make sure to take the time to review the building's bylaws. Clamp down on sloppy residents by incorporating fines for security risks like not waiting for the parking gate to close or neglecting to assure the exterior doors are secured when entering and exiting the building.

These residents place building security low on the priority list. I'm referring to irresponsible residents who keep their overhead gate openers on their car visors. Keep in mind doing periodic security checks of residential vehicles in your building is important. Looking for loose change, CDs, and laptops in vehicles could stop the building from being branded "a treasure hunt" by thieves.

Or how about the obliging owner who will let anybody in the building with a push of a button? Pizza delivery men, confused visitors, phoney police officers, bogus tradepersons – these "trigger happy" residents are putting the rest of the owners at risk of a violation.

Once your building has been marked as an easy mark, you will continually be targeted. Owners need to be vigilant about their home security looking for weaknesses in the building. If not, their new condominium could be tainted as an easy mark and chances are it will be under fire until the necessary improvements are made.

Frank Fourchalk is a home security expert . E-mail him at Fourchalk@shaw.ca or visit www.yourhomesecurity.ca

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