Ghost Owners – Managing when nobody is home

December 2021

In a high-rise community it can be hard to tell when nobody is home.  People go weeks or months without seeing each other.  Perhaps the only indication is newspapers in a lobby or by the door.

Suite vacancies arise for many reasons.  Business travel and vacations are common.  Snowbirds may travel south every winter.  A tenant may have vacated the suite and another may not have moved in.  Ghost owners can be leaving a suite vacant for weeks or months at a time.

When people are away from home they can be reluctant to tell anyone.  It can be safer when nobody is aware a home is vacant.

Condo management is generally unconcerned about ghost owners so long as condo fees are paid, water doesn’t leak and nothing freezes.

What can go wrong

There are times when building staff or contractors may need to access a unit.  Many things can go wrong while a suite is vacant.  Heat turned off in winter during intense cold can cause water pipes to freeze or burst.  Water can damage the unit and any number of lower units.  Water damage contained to a suite over a period of time can cause mould to grow.

Less urgent matters may include dealing with illegal short-term rentals, delivered packages sitting in hallways or with the concierge, or lack of quorum if too many ghost owners result in poor attendance at meetings.


Management should be informed when a suite will be vacant for more than a couple of days.  They should maintain a complete set of keys to access suites in the event of a problem or emergency.  While some may be uncomfortable with providing management with keys to access their home, they are likely to be far more uncomfortable with having their door broken down by the fire department or the cost of damage that could have been avoided.

The board has authority to access any unit for necessary or emergency repairs.  In the event of a broken pipe or water leak management must act quickly to stabilize a situation.  They need to stop a problem from worsening.  If unable to reach the owner, management has authority to initiate emergency repairs without an owner’s permission.  Owners can be held financially responsible for damage and repair costs if the problem is caused within their suite.

Leaving your suite unattended is a personal choice.  If you choose to do so there are likely to be fewer problems if someone has keys to the suite and contact information.  Then you can enjoy your away-time secure in the knowledge that others are helping watch over your home.