Q. A resident in one unit of my duplex installed security cameras without letting me know. The camera happens to record another tenant’s front door. Is this okay?
A. You should review your lease to see if there are any provisions requiring the permission of the landlord before a security camera can be installed. Some leases require the tenant to first obtain written permission. Typically, landlords demand this so the landlord can monitor the installation process of the security cameras, reduce any damage to the building, and to protect the privacy and quiet enjoyment of other tenants.
If your lease requires the tenant to first obtain written permission, your tenant may be in breach of the lease. You should write a letter to your tenant demanding your tenant remove the security camera and warn your tenant that the failure to do so could result in a formal eviction notice. If you decide to allow your tenant to keep the cameras, remind your tenant of this term of the lease and make it clear that your tenant is permitted to keep the cameras just as long as it does not interfere with the privacy of other tenants. Additionally, you should request your tenant reimburse you for any damage caused to the building.
If your lease is silent on this, and if your tenant has a legitimate reason to why cameras are necessary, a tenant may be permitted to install security cameras. The cameras should record exterior parts or general parts of a building, not damage the building, and not disturb another tenant’s quiet enjoyment and privacy.
One of the most common reasons why a tenant wants to install a security camera is due to safety concerns. To balance one tenant’s legitimate safety concerns versus another tenant’s reasonable expectation of privacy, the cameras should be angled in a way that would not interfere with the quiet enjoyment of another tenant. Thus, cameras should not be placed in an area where someone would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is clear that bedrooms and bathrooms are off-limits. In contrast, there is no expectation of privacy on the street or in a public space.
Security cameras usually capture more than just one person’s property. The peripheral vision of a camera is usually at a wide angle. If the camera captures parts of another resident’s property like the front lawn, the tenant with the security camera is probably okay and not invading anyone’s privacy.
However, if the camera is capturing the front door, then it may depend on the positioning of the camera. If the camera is pointed directly at the neighbor’s front door, then the resident without the camera may have a valid concern for invasion of their privacy. Cameras should not be used to spy on a neighbor’s routine. If you believe this could be a reason for the installation of the cameras, you should write a letter to your tenant and request your tenant remove the cameras or reposition them.
Each case is different and revolves around the specific facts. A tenant’s right to privacy is very protected. A landlord should be wary of infringing on such rights and consult with an attorney before taking any action.
© 2019 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time