Sometimes I have to write a lot in order to get my point across. Maybe it’s because the law is not clear. There are exceptions to the rule. There are extenuating circumstances. This is not one of those times. So let me say this as clear as clear can be: If the governing documents or even board made rule require the owners to leave a key to their unit with the association – you must leave a key to your unit with the association. There is no excuse yet that I have seen or read about which would allow an owner to disregard the requirement to leave a key.
“they don’t need a key, I’m always home”
“I don’t trust the Board to have a key to my unit – they’re all crooks”
“I’ll leave the key with my neighbor but not the board”
always fail. These defenses have been repeatedly tried in arbitration cases and never work. The unit owner not only is required by the arbitrator to turn over keys, but now they’re required to reimburse the association their attorney’s fees and costs. A big loss for the unit owner.
So now that the association has the right to have a key, does that mean they can enter your unit any time they like? Of course not. Florida Statute 718.111 provides:
(5) RIGHT OF ACCESS TO UNITS.—
(a) The association has the irrevocable right of access to each unit during reasonable hours, when necessary for the maintenance, repair, or replacement of any common elements or of any portion of a unit to be maintained by the association pursuant to the declaration or as necessary to prevent damage to the common elements or to a unit.
So, unless the association is there for the specific reasons contained in the statute, they cannot come in. If they do, it may be considered a criminal trespass. Moreover, if the association is going to maintain keys to everyone’s unit, they would be wise to ensure that the keys are kept under their own lock and key. If the keys in the association’s possession are not properly protected by the association, the keys are accessed, and a unit is broken into, no doubt that the association can face extensive liability for being negligent.