Keeping an Eye on Security in a Shared-Use Facility

How do you install new security devices or systems in a building with multiple tenants? If you’re only managing one part of a facility, how do you get the landlord’s buy-in to make important changes to your part of the building? How do you keep your employees safe in a facility with multiple access control points and a shared lobby or reception area? How do you enforce access control policies when you can’t screen all visitors, vendors, customers, clients, or employees from other companies?

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If you’re a facilities management professional trying to protect your employer or your client in a mixed-use building, it’s certainly not as easy as when your employer owns the whole property.

The security challenges that come with housing your employees in a shared-use building can be met in three distinct ways: Go along with all of the landlord’s requests, demands, or restrictions; fight with the landlord over all of the security changes you want to deploy and/or do them with or without their permission; or meet with the landlord, outline your plans, and try to get to a compromise position. Some changes the landlord might be willing to allow or even pay for, because they enhance the quality of the facility. Others the landlord will not allow, unless you’re able to fully explain the benefits, and even then it might not happen.

Landlords know they have an “invitee relationship” with the tenants, visitors, and vendors who enter their facilities. They have a legal duty to keep the building and all its occupants and visitors safe using reasonable methods. Those approaches may range from no cameras to high-quality footage captured on a Network Video Recorder to a fulltime security staff who patrols the interior and exterior on a timeclock-monitored basis to a 24-hour reception and security staff in the lobby to nothing but signs pointing to the elevators.

It’s always going to be useful to start the landlord-tenant relationship on a positive note before you’ve moved in. That’s the time to have the discussions about pulling wire for camera and alarms systems; building out rooms with secure door hardware, that can be used as potential safe rooms; and redesigning existing reception areas to make them more secure. Meeting with landlord and developing rapport in advance of move-in can create a better “shared-fate”; your mutual goals of a safer building and safer visitors and happier employees for all parties. Trying to install devices without permission or make changes to your portion of the property not only creates bad feelings (and you may have signed a 10-year lease) but it also could violate the terms of your lease and cause you to pay penalties or have to fix the space back to its original condition.

In a perfect world, you could completely control your portion of the building with separate access-controlled doors, a dedicated elevator to your floor, and no need for much interaction with other tenants and their customers. More likely, you will have to share the space and may only be able to seal off or control access to your office suites and not even your floor. You may have to rely on the landlord’s choice of receptionists and security officers. As part of your security discussion, see if you can at least get a copy of the receptionist’s “duties book” to verify their responses to routine and emergency situations. It can help to get a copy of the security officers’ posted orders to see if you can make some careful suggestions or at least understand the guards’ duties or limits.

Suggest to the landlord that you are willing to do some shared-use security training on a no-charge basis for the building reception and security staff to talk about current building security issues making the news or at least help to give them more confidence as they do their jobs.