Theft! Whether it occurs in the common area lobby, hallway, parking area, or on an owner’s porch, it is on the rise. Many associations are installing or updating surveillance cameras in response to this criminal behavior. Cameras may not stop all thievery, but they can still help to prove criminal damages or that a theft has occurred. Surveillance cameras can be valuable tools for insurance purposes, to deter would-be criminals, and to provide law enforcement with proof so they can hold criminals accountable for their behavior. Below is a checklist of key points for boards of directors to consider when making surveillance camera policies. Every association with cameras should adopt these guidelines.
Affirm that Association Cameras Do Not Provide Security – Unless an association’s governing documents state otherwise – and they never should – associations do not generally provide security to their residents and should take care in their communications, policies, and actions to avoid creating a duty (and liability) to provide security to residents. This is important so that residents do not rely on such representations for security. Associations should state that the surveillance cameras have a limited purpose and are for the benefit of the association. That is, the cameras are placed to provide evidence of association property damage or theft, for the board to review after an incident has occurred. Associations should also provide a disclaimer to advise residents of limited video storage, the overwriting of older footage, and the fact that cameras may not be actively monitored with a live viewer. The association should make it explicit in policy that residents are responsible for protecting themselves and their own personal property. This is important so that residents do not rely on the association’s cameras for such footage, which may not exist.
Address Privacy Issues – One of the major liability concerns regarding the installation of cameras is, of course, the issue of privacy. State law does not permit the recording of others without their consent when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Typically, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas, such as a garage, lobby, or shared hallway, since anyone can come and go through these areas. However, there is a likely expectation of privacy in the interior of someone’s home, a backyard, or a restroom.