Security in strata

We like to know our homes are secure from intruders and most strata properties rate highly on that score. Apart from some smaller, older blocks it is rare to find a property where access to individual lots or shared areas like foyers, lifts, stairwells and even garages is not protected both physically end electronically with some kind of fob or pass key.

So, break-ins to individual residential lots are also quite rare. Memorably, some time back, headlines about a “spiderman burglar” hitting high rise apartments proved wide of the mark. The culprit was a rogue building manager with a set of master keys.

Security in common areas is another matter. Strata committees are grappling with several challenges.

Mail thief

Identity theft can be devastating where it leads to massive debts run up in your name. While online phishing and other scams are a growing threat, one of the most common sources of personal information for fraudsters is still through raiding mailboxes. Strata mailboxes are particularly vulnerable when they offer large numbers of individual boxes in one easily accessed location.

Parcel thief

The boom in online shopping has brough with it a boom in parcel theft. Piles of anonymous boxes and packages left in foyers are a tempting target for opportunistic thieves, and police are seeing more organised and widespread examples of this type of crime as well.

Storage thief

Wire mesh storage cages can be accessed with a good pair of wire cutters. Garages are particularly vulnerable to tailgating so anyone can easily access these areas unnoticed.

Security measures

The most important security measure is awareness. Strata residents need to understand these risks and be encouraged to take steps to minimise them. Residents should be urged to clear mailboxes daily, to go paperless on bills where possible and collect new credit and debit cards from the bank. If you are not sure you will be home to take delivery, the safest bet is to direct parcels to a public parcel locker or post office for collection. And do not store anything of value in a mesh storage cage.

Better mailboxes

If your mailboxes are vulnerable, particularly in a public area, owners corporations should consider investing in more robust and secure locks. This can be funded out of a capital works fund and there are many cost-effective solutions available.

App-based parcel locker solutions for individual strata schemes are also now emerging in the market.


Increased strata schemes are choosing to upgrade their security with a CCTV network to monitor activity in public areas. These are strongly supported by police because they can provide clear evidence and make successful prosecutions more likely.

A secondary benefit is deterrence. Would-be thieves will think twice if they know they are being watched. In the past, fake cameras have been used to some effect but they became easy to spot for a determined criminal. Today, advances in technology and reductions in cost make the real thing a much better option.

Thirdly, a CCTV system can also be an invaluable aid in managing some by-laws such as parking, short-term letting or waste disposal.

Privacy risks

Placement of CCTV cameras needs to be carefully considered to avoid intruding on the privacy of individual lots. An obvious example is car parks where there is usually both common property and private property. Any incidental recording of doorways or windows is also a potential privacy breach.

In public areas, clear signage that the area is under surveillance is also needed.


As CCTV will be a modification to common property, it must be authorised by a general meeting through a specific by-law that spells out exactly where cameras will be installed, what areas will be under surveillance, who will have access to the recordings and where and how they will be stored.


Installation costs will vary depending on factors including the number and location of cameras and the extent of wiring needed. There are several specialist companies, so it is best to obtain several quotes and compare both costs and benefits of different solutions.


A key decision for owners is who will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining the CCTV system once it is installed. This will be part of the building managers’ role, but many strata schemes will engage an external security company, particularly where there is no onsite building manager.

Data security around recordings is also an important consideration, particularly where owners and residents voice concerns about privacy. There is a case to be made for both a closed hard drive recording system and a cloud-based solution. The risks and benefits of both should be part of any consideration of a new system.

Importantly, any material change to an existing CCTV system may need to be authorised by a general meeting through an amended by-law.

Other options

Consideration should be given to whether there are better value options to deal with specific risks.  Improved lighting and landscaping around mailboxes and entry areas are good examples.

If CCTV is the best solution, then legal advice may be needed to ensure proper documentation of the reasons to install the equipment and creation of a sound policy that protects the scheme should anyone challenge the legalities of how the equipment has been used.

In the first instance, speak to your Strata Plus manager.

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