Purchasing/Living in a Condominium

July, 19 2017 Published by Toronto and Area Chapter - By Quintin Johnstone

Access Fob Counterfeiting

From the Summer 2017 issue of the CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.

There is a growing and disturbing business trend in the residential condominium industry in the GTA. The website of one downtown Toronto fob copying operation indicates that the company is found steps from the subway and that you can get a cheap copy of your access fob within one minute.

What appears to be a home-grown small business really isn't. It is a disturbing world-wide phenomena and it is taking hold across Canada very quickly. The Internet is littered with websites of similar services that have popped up recently. Even Amazon is getting into the act with selling Electric Cloning Universal Gate Garage Door Remote Control Fobs and other such devices.

Internet based fob copying companies claim, "100% Key Fobs Guaranteed to Work." Some companies boast that they can clone most RFID formats (in 75 formats and brands) and that they can service in 35 countries around the world. You can even buy fob copying software and hardware and start your own homebased business for under $200 CAD. The consequences of this new trend are very alarming.

Safety and Security Risk

The emergence of so many companies illegally duplicating access fobs raises serious concerns of short-term renters, technicians, tradespersons and would-be criminals gaining unauthorized access to residential condominium communities. This creates a security nightmare for condominium boards, property managers and security companies. This safety concern is precisely the reason why the majority of condominium corporations in the GTA have Declarations and Rules prescribing that the corporation, through property management, is the exclusive source for obtaining access fobs. As such, condominium residents must refrain from using access fob copying services.

Expert Commentary

Access technology expert Bryan Jones, President of Parkhead Building Technology a company that specializes in residential condominium access control systems in Toronto, explains the risks of using access fob copying services:

"Access fobs can be easily cloned and can be used in addition to authorized access fobs without leaving a separate trace or signature. Fobs are copied by way of cloning the parent fob access number into a blank fob copy. Currently most businesses can only copy 36 Wiegand access card formats but this will not last long as the demand for this market increases. I would be very reluctant as an owner to bring my access fob to be copied by such establishments."

Almost all condominiums have declarations and building rules prescribing that the corporation through property management is the single, only and exclusive centralized source of obtaining access fobs. There is basic a reason for that. It is community safety.

Having such companies illegally duplicate access fobs raises serious concerns about company technicians making illegal copes of their own to gain unauthorized access to residential condominium communities. Not only a serious security concern, illegal counterfeiting of access fobs is likely to be considered theft of intellectual property. This will likely be used for short term rentals that will allow unregistered persons to easily enter residential condominium communities. The sobering reality is that condominium corporations must be constantly vigilant to all illegal access risks and guard against those risks.

Expert condominium lawyer, Gerald Miller, managing partner of Gardiner Miller Arnold LLP discusses the legalities of copying access fobs:

"The use of counterfeit key fobs in condominiums creates a significant security risk for all owners and residents and is certainly in contravention of the condominium corporation's rules and operating procedures. Duplicating fobs is also likely in contravention of copyright and patent laws. What must be remembered is that fobs are one of the bricks in the foundation of a building's security, and the second one person buys a fake fob, that person is creating a crack in the security and compromising the safety of all residents. It is certainly ill-advised."

The Association of Condominium Manages of Ontario (ACMO) put out an alert to all property managers on December 20, 2016 that states, in part:

"ACMO has recently learned of third party contractors in the GTA duplicating fobs for condominium owners outside of a request to management. With condo residents, their family and visitors coming and going for the holidays, fob access is often convenient. That said, fob access can also be abused or misused. This service is promoted as a convenience to owners, to allow them and their guests to obtain additional fobs quickly and cheaply. However, the service indirectly allows a third party contractor, who may or may not be authorized by the board, to have access to the property's entry. It also by-passes the regulation of fobs and entry access typically undertaken by management when an owner requests an additional fob through proper channels." [Excerpt from Fob Duplication Alert ACMO Website]

Best Practices

In order to best protect your community, the following action plan is recommended:

  • Ensure your condominium community has a recent Comprehensive Risk Assessment conducted by an industry accredited professional
  • Streamline and simplify the access fob registration and activation process for residents
  • Make access fobs costs to residents reasonable • Communication should go out to all residents in advance that fob duplication cloning is not permitted
  • All forms related to the purchase or activation of access fobs should clearly stipulate that the corporation, through property management are the sole, absolute and exclusive distributor of access fobs and that any illegal duplication is not permitted
  • Implement regular, routine and ad hoc access fob audits in all residential condominium communities
  • Ensure that security must be vigilant in ensuring that only recognized residents are allowed access and to challenge strangers
  • When illegal access fobs are found, all fobs assigned to the offending resident(s) should immediately be deactivated
  • In such cases, cloned fobs will also deactivated automatically
  • Property management should follow up with offending residents
  • Trades that require access to access fobs must turn in all fobs at the end of each day and register through a signing out and in process with approved collateral (e.g. car keys)
  • All access fobs should be deactivated when residents move out as a mandatory standard
  • Corporations should institute an Assigned Resident Picture to Fob Registration Process
  • Several websites should be regularly checked that have listed residential condominium communities where fobs have been copied and where the counterfeit process has taken place:
  • Check sites to determine if your site has been violated
  • When found, property managers should contact these businesses and advise that duplication of fobs is not authorized in the community
  • Contact your access control service provider for technology that can prevent access through the use of copied fobs

Until technology catches up to this trend, condominium communities remain at risk. Access control companies have scrambled to create prevention techniques and technology to prevent copies of fobs being used. Such technology is being developed and will likely impact the budget of condominium corporations. Condominium boards and property management companies should be prepared to revisit reserve fund and operational budgets to account for this new trend.


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