Some of our clients have recently experienced the arrival of Police Officers or CSIS Agents at their condominium properties demanding access to units and/or information.
With or without a warrant, the Corporation and/or its agent(s) have the right to ask an officer for photo identification and his or her badge number. If the officer does not provide this information, then the Corporation and/or its agent(s) has the right to refuse entry.
Usually, entry into a private residence by police without a warrant is constitutionally prohibited (s. 8 of Charter). However, there are narrow exceptions to this rule which are detailed below.
In a hypothetical situation when an officer appears at the front desk of a condominium building and requests that the Corporation and/or its agent(s) let him or her into one of the condominium units without a warrant, the Corporation and/or its agent(s) can:
1. if the officer is in uniform; note the officer’s badge number & name from his or her name tag,
2. if the officer is in plain clothes; request identification which may include a warrant card – with the officer’s photo, signed by the chief of police or a tin badge showing the name of the police department and the officer’s badge number.
In either case, the Corporation and/or its agent(s) have the right to ask for the officer’s division and should call the station to confirm the officer’s identification.
3. if an officer in uniform or plain clothes has a warrant, request identification and note the officer’s name and badge number. If the officer does not provide identification, entry may be refused, even if the officer has a warrant. If the officer provides identification entry cannot be refused. If the officer provides identification and his or her entry is refused, the agent/representative can be arrested and charged with obstruction.
Section 8 of the Charter states that “everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.” As a result, warrantless entry into a person’s home is constitutionally prohibited. This includes areas surrounding a home such as the hallways of an apartment building, the house perimeter and its yard, as well as garages and sheds on the property. There are exceptions to this rule.
Police can sometimes enter a private residence without a warrant, in some of the following situations:
1. Where the owner or resident or another person in the home with authority understands what the police want and gives them permission to enter. This is called “informed consent.”1
2. Where the peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is present in the dwelling-house, and the conditions for obtaining a warrant…exist but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impractical to obtain a warrant.
3. Where the police enter a private residence to make an arrest in ‘hot pursuit.’
4. Where other circumstances exist such as:
(a) Giving emergency aid to someone inside, investigating a disconnected 911 call and helping animals in distress due to injury, neglect, abuse, etc.
(b) Police entering under child welfare laws, with the belief that a child needs immediate protection.
If a CSIS agent wants to enter a private residence the agent may have a warrant and must produce identification if it is requested by the unit owner and/or corporation’s agent. The corporation and/or its agent should then contact CSIS and verify the identity of the agent. CSIS may refuse to allow the Corporation and/or its agent to make a copy of the agent’s identification and/or warrant however, CSIS should allow the Corporation and/or its agent to note the reference number of the warrant.
Without a warrant, the Corporation and/or its agent has no obligation to speak to a CSIS agent or grant access to a private residence at any time.
Various statutes authorize warrantless entry into private residences when particular circumstances exist. It is important to protect the privacy of owners and residents. It will often be necessary to contact the Corporation’s solicitor to ensure that access is only provided when required.