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My overnight guests have to register with the condo board! Is that kosher?

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Q. My condo board recently informed residents that we need to submit a "permission to enter" form for every guest who stays over, identifying their names, addresses, and phone numbers. I've read that boards are allowed to require this kind of form, which gives building staff the right to let in guests when residents are out of town. But in our case the board is making no distinction between short-term Airbnb subletters (admittedly a problem in this building) and, say, a significant other spending the night or a relative crashing on the couch.

I appreciate the need to address the problem of unregistered visitors, but this seems like an invasion of privacy. What can I do?

A. While your privacy concerns are valid, it’s smarter to work with the board to loosen the requirements of the policy, rather than scrap it altogether, our experts say.

You don’t mention specifics about your building’s short-term rental problem, but consider the perspective of the board and staff members, who are there partly to ensure the residents’ safety. If a guest enters the building and you’re not home, there’s no good way to figure out if he should be let in, absent something in writing, says Ken Lupano, executive director of Solstice Residential Group, a property management firm. Even if the visitor truthfully says that he was allowed in yesterday, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want him allowed in today, Lupano says. “While verbally authorizing door staff to permit access in a resident’s absence might seem to be enough, it opens the process to any number of misunderstandings regarding exactly who was authorized, and there is no record,” he explains. “That could be of concern to a board.”  

That said, the policy you describe has a little room for nuance. For example, it could--should?--distinguish between overnight visitors, Airbnb subletters and visitors staying for 30 days or more, says attorney Terry Oved, who heads up the real estate department at Oved & Oved. “I would suggest that you attempt to communicate and resolve your concerns directly with the management agent or the board and obtain a waiver for any guest staying for less than 30 days,” he says.

Another solution could be to relax the rules for regular visitors or family members. “A board requiring that written permission include addresses and phone numbers of [guests] might be viewed excessive for identifying entry authorization,” Lupano suggest. “Perhaps that can be revisited.”

If that proves unsuccessful, you could go to court to get relief from this “obnoxious regulation,” under the theory that the board has exceeded their authority in passing the rule, Oved says. But that could prove costly and time-consuming.


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