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Virtual doormen, digital mailrooms, and building access laws

NYC, Real Estate Developments, Real Estate Legality

by Boris Stefanik, from Unsplash

E-commerce has dramatically changed shopping habits, and new security and “smart-home” technologies have also changed the way many people configure their homes. Many apartment buildings in New York City, whether co-op or condo, have implemented these changes to varying degrees. Some of the newest technologies even include smartphone app-based services that allow residents to buzz in delivery personnel. In China, where facial-recognition technology has been implemented in many parts of daily life, some apartment-dwellers can enter their buildings with a quick nod to a camera. Perhaps most importantly, many buildings have adopted virtual doormen or digital mailrooms because of the major cost-savings that can be achieved, albeit with the loss of the personal touch of human services. [1]

But have these new technologies and the habits accompanying them led to notable changes in the law? For the time being, no. If, for example, a co-op board has voted to replace a full-service doorman with one of the many digital alternatives or simply an intercom buzz-in system, this is unlikely to alter the legal liability dynamics if people who should not have access to the building are found inside. The same is true in the case of mailrooms that have been semi-automated, and in which neighbors sometimes find their packages may go missing. However, as these changes to building service continue to take hold, we may see changes in both legal liability as well as customs around comings-and-goings in residential buildings. People rightly seek to uphold the security and privacy of their homes, and the rules governing shared entryways and spaces in apartment buildings can be a contentious (and litigious) space when people feel their neighbors are acting in an uncourteous or irresponsible manner. [2]

[1] Sidransky, A.J. (September 2018) Deliveries in the Age of Digital Staff from Cooperator Accessed September 23 2019

[2] Stebner, B. (February 2016) Can ‘remote’ doorman systems replace real doormen? from Brick Underground Accessed September 23 2019

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