Businessman who sits on condo boards also copies fobs for $35, no questions asked
By John Lancaster
19 June 2017
For $35, nearly anyone can copy an electronic key fob and get access to
dozens of Toronto condo towers, a CBC Toronto investigation has
CBC Toronto used hidden cameras to show how easy it is to do.
Toronto businessman George Laczko is the director of FobCopy, a walk-in
and mail-in business near Bloor and Sherbourne streets that copies
different types of fobs — small electronic key tags that give people
access to condo towers and their common areas like lobbies, gyms, pools
and even change rooms.
A hidden CBC Toronto camera captures an image of an employee at
FobCopy copying a condo fob for a CBC producer. The company says
customers must show 'proof' they own a condo in the building. But
nobody asked for identification or proof before making this fob. (CBC)
Laczko has been on the board of directors of at least two Toronto
condominiums. He is supposed to act in the best interests of condo
owners, but his business is being described as a "breach" of his duties
to condo owners that could be putting thousands of residents at risk.
After all, the use and distribution of fobs are normally strictly
controlled by property management companies to prevent non-residents
from getting access to a building.
Business 'impacts the safety and security of residents'
businessman George Laczko is the director of FobCopy, a walk-in and
mail-in business near Bloor and Sherbourne streets that copies
different types of fobs. (LinkedIn)
Laczko has been on the board of the 59-storey L Tower at Yonge Street
and The Esplanade. The building is also one of the many condo towers
his company has been selling access to.
Denise Lash, a lawyer who represents condo owners at the L Tower, says that raises a number of red flags.
"That's definitely a conflict and it's definitely a breach of [his]
fiduciary duty, but it goes further than that. There's a real concern
here as to why this is going on and how this impacts on the safety and
security of residents of the building," Lash told CBC Toronto.
She noted many condos won't even issue fobs to condo owners, unless
they're actually living in the unit they own. If they don't, only the
tenant will be issued a fob.
When contacted by CBC Toronto, Laczko said he was aware of the security
concerns, but "we only have about 20 customers a week. When I started,
I never thought of the L Tower as a conflict."
He added that many condo owners have told him condominium management companies make it "too difficult" to copy fobs.
Copying fobs isn't illegal, but Laczko's company's website claims
anyone wanting to copy a fob must show "proof" they own a condo in the
building they want to copy a fob for.
However, CBC Toronto producers Mike Smee and Nicole Brockbank were both
able to get duplicates of fobs they borrowed from legal condo owners
without providing any identification or proof they were the actual
owners or residents.
"One or two" was all the employee asked when Brockbank sought a copy of
a fob for the L Tower. Smee got a copy of a fob for the Element condos
at 20 Blue Jays Way. In both instances, the transactions were recorded
by hidden cameras the producers wore. The fobs cost $35 each to copy.
The business lists more than 55 Toronto condo towers it can duplicate
Fob copying businesses 'the wild west'
When asked about these allegations, Laczko said "it's a new industry
where I think the laws have to be hammered out. It's the wild west." He
also suggested copying fobs is no different than going to a variety
store to get a key copied. He said large Canadian retailers were
getting set to offer similar services.
In addition to the L Tower, Laczko has been elected to the board of
directors for at least one other condo tower: the Five at 5 St. Joseph
St. Under Ontario's Condominium Act, a director must act honestly and
in good faith and must exercise the care, diligence and skill that a
reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances.
Residents at both towers are trying to oust Laczko and other board
members after a CBC Toronto investigation uncovered evidence they have
used questionable tactics to gain control of the boards and their
multi-million dollar annual budgets.The group of individuals has sat on
more than a dozen condo boards in Toronto and Mississauga.
Audrey Loeb, a lawyer who was hired by residents at the Five condos to
help oust Laczko and others from that board, says Laczko's fob business
is "a moral" breach that places thousands of condo residents at risk.
"What does cause me enormous concern is that a board member would
actually be in the business of supplying fobs to people who may or may
not have any [financial] interest in that building," she told CBC
Toronto. "It goes totally contrary to a fiduciary duty as a board
member to allow people to copy fobs outside of the process the
condominium corporation has put in place."
CBC producers attempted to copy a fob for the Five condos too, but
Laczko's business was closed last week. The company's website was also
Airbnb renters can make duplicates of your fob
The fob issue is also a concern for Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with
Unite Here Local 75 and the Fairbnb.ca Coalition. The group is opposed
to short-term rentals. Lock boxes for short-term rentals — a so-called
"Airbnb tree" — can be seen outside the L Tower and many other condo
buildings. Inside the boxes are fobs renters use to access their rental
units in these towers.
A so-called Airbnb tree outside Toronto's L Tower. (John Lancaster/CBC)
There is nothing preventing the fobs from being copied or distributed to others once they are removed.
"It is easy for any Airbnb guest to make a quick copy that grants them
access to shared space in the building long after their actual stay,"
Wieditz told CBC Toronto.
"Many condo residents ... already feel uneasy about the rapid increase
in short-term rental use. The fact that literally anyone, no questions
asked, can reproduce these fobs raises a whole new level of concern
around personal safety, theft and security. We just don't know
who comes and goes anymore."