Downtown Condo Keys - Should I be on the building master key?

I often hear people discussing whether their personal unit should be on a building master key system. The building master key system means that the HOA or building management has a master key that opens individual units in the building. Downtown San Diego (92101) condominium buildings usually fall into one of these three categories:

  1. The building has a master key system and the unit owner can decide whether or not their unit is part of the master key system (i.e. whether the building master key will open their door). 
  2. The building has a master key system and the all individual units must be part of the master key system. In other words, the CC&Rs or HOA rules dictate that anytime you rekey your lock, you must make sure the building master key still opens your unit door. 
  3. Some buildings in downtown do not have a master key system for individual units.

If your building has a unit master key system and the CC&Rs give you the choice whether to participate or not, here is some food for thought when you are you are making the decision:

PROS of being part of the unit master key system:

  • When maintenance such as plumbing cabling/jetting is being done, the HOA can easily enter your unit without you having to coordinate keys in advance. Remember that HOAs must usually give you notice days in advance of entering your unit for planned maintenance even if they have a master key to your unit.
  • If there is an emergency in the building and you are not home, the HOA can enter your unit without prior notice to mitigate damage to your unit. This can be the most valuable benefit of being on the master key system. If you are not on a master key system, your HOA can still access your unit, but they usually need to call a locksmith to open your door. But keep in mind that the delay in getting a locksmith dispatched, can lead to much more damage to your unit, especially if a flooding event is taking place.
  • If you lock yourself out without keys, the building management may be able to let you back into your unit with the master key. I use the word "may" because some buildings may be able to provide this service during regular business hours only and/or the HOA may charge a fee.

CONS of being part of the unit master key system:

  • Someone else has "keys" to your unit. This can give some people anxiety. 
  • Locks are that "pinned" for master key systems are easier to pick open (this is probably more or less a theoretical issue and I would not lose sleep over this fact!). Most downtown condo use relatively high security locks that are relatively hard to pick regardless.

Hopefully, this short blog post will help you decide whether to be on the master key system. Our own home has been on the building master key since 2008 and I have never worried about it. In addition, I have't heard of anyone else in our building having an issue because they were on the master key system. Lock-IQ can rekey or "re-pin" your condo lock in the San Diego area to be part of the building master key system if you so choose. We serve condo buildings in zip codes 92101, 92110, 92134, 92103, 92106, 92135, 92108.