Security in Maine – Secure Communities

Maintenance Plans and Reserve Funding

Many think of Maine as a safe haven. During the height of the Covid pandemic, Maine saw a rapid growth in population due to folks fleeing the densely settled urban areas to the south. This in turn resulted in Maine’s average home sales prices climbing due to a lack of residential inventory and perceived value of the quality of life in Maine. People wanted a safe and stable environment for their family with Zoom telecommuting becoming the new normal.

The terms ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ are often used interchangeably but what do these words really mean when it comes to community or condominium living? Are these the most important features a community owes its unit owners? They are not. Rather, a condominium or HOA’s primary duty is the protection of the unit owners’ net worth. With the protection of unit owners’ net worth the other significant elements of a common community will take care of themselves. A well-managed community will be adhering to its maintenance plan with a properly funded operating and capital repairs program. Unit owners will feel secure about their future and the safety of their family which will be favorably perceived in the real estate market.

The easiest way to accomplish this important goal is to maintain the community’s reserve fund plan. I always recommend to my common community clients they should follow CAI’s guidelines of performing a thorough and formal review of the reserve fund plan every 3 to 4 years. This will ensure current financial and technical issues are consistent with the plan’s objectives. This review should include consideration of changing technology; evolving environmental conditions; and new needs of the unit owners. One of these changing needs is increased site security.

Site Security Considerations

The recent growth in Maine of mid- and high-rise city condominiums as well as larger suburban HOA communities, have raised the concern that site security is more important now than it has been in the recent past. Law enforcement agencies report 70% of crimes involve a vehicle and 80% of property crimes go unsolved due to lack of evidence. The majority of Maine’s condominium and HOA communities are not gated. To resolve this concern, some communities are turning to modern technologies to provide a lower cost alternative to staffed or automatic gates such as license plate reader cameras at point of vehicle egress. The new systems are wireless and solar powered, reducing infrastructure costs. The camera scanners not only capture an image of the license plate but also compare the plate number to the current list of stolen vehicles while automatically alerting the police. Unit owners can register their plate numbers to avoid recording, thus providing privacy.

Most insurance companies and property managers provide guidance on the most common methods of site protection for the diverse types of condominium and HOA facilities in Maine. A concise list of those recommendations include:

  • Building security: High security locks and key chain fobs for doors and elevators.
  • Review: Periodically audit security cards and key chain fobs to ensure they are assigned to valid users.
  • Teamwork: Remind unit owner to report suspicious behavior and damaged doors and windows.
  • Window covering: Block viewing of interiors on lower levels.
  • Storage sign removal: Deny knowledge to burglars of the contents of an interior space.
  • Access control: Remind unit owner to not hold open security doors for strangers.
  • Neighbor friendly: Encourage neighbors to get to know each other’s routines for mutual protection.
  • Police reporting: Suggest method of contacting police when appropriate.

Unit Owner Measures

In addition to these basic practices, each unit owner should be encouraged to engage their own DIY security measures for their own unit. This could include not only locking their balcony sliding door but also placing a solid rod in the door’s floor track to prevent unauthorized opening from the outside. Use timers to operate light fixtures when the unit is vacant to give the appearance of occupancy.

Purchase a wireless unit security system. These easy-to-use systems such as SimpliSafe; Vivint; or ADT are wireless kits consisting of sensors, base station; and cameras. They can be monitored remotely using a computer or mobile phone app. Also, traditional measures such as a fireproof safe for protecting valuables, important papers; and passports never go out of style. Maine is still the way life should be but taking a few precautions can go a long way to keep it that way.

Written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED-AP, Senior Consultant Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media