To a homeowners association looking to strengthen security, the idea of installing surveillance cameras might be attractive. But, you can’t just slap on a bunch of cameras around your community and call it a day. You must craft and follow an HOA security camera policy that will protect your association.
What to Include Your HOA Security Camera Policy
Security is a common concern among many homeowners in HOA communities. And while associations have a handful of options to address it, one of the most popular recourse is to install security cameras around the neighborhood.
But, the mere presence of security cameras can put the association at risk of liability. Therefore, it is important to lay down a set of rules that your HOA can follow and use to protect itself. When creating your HOA rules for security cameras, consider including the following:
1. Align With Aesthetics
Let’s face it — giant chunks of metal dotting your neighborhood doesn’t exactly scream beauty. Plus, chances are, security cameras won’t go well with your community’s aesthetics. Since an HOA’s primary purpose is to maintain curb appeal and protect property values, homeowners might argue that installing security cameras can only have a detrimental effect on the appearance of your community.
If you do decide to install them anyway, though, make sure to plan it out carefully. See to it that they won’t impact the appeal of your neighborhood in a negative way. Security cameras come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the designs are very sleek, too. Go with the ones that will fit in the best with the style of your community.
Moreover, you should plan for seasonal changes. If you plan to install outside cameras, make sure they are made with durable materials and can withstand even the harshest of weather conditions.
2. Regulate Placement
A common conundrum HOAs encounter is where to place security cameras. This is where privacy concerns come into play. Homeowners have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so you should never point cameras directly into their homes or any area deemed private. This includes backyards and windows as well. It should also go without saying that you should never install security cameras in private locations like shower rooms and changing rooms.
3. HOA Monitoring and Reviewing Footage
Your HOA video surveillance policy should define what happens to footage once it is created. Will the HOA assign or hire someone to monitor the footage? Is someone just going to review them afterward? When and what time will they do that?
Sometimes, the HOA can’t afford to have anyone monitor the cameras. In that case, you should post a sign telling passersby that the cameras are recording footage but no one is currently monitoring them. You might think this is counterintuitive as it gives criminals a leg up, but it is more of a liability issue than anything else.
4. Access to Footage
Similarly, your HOA security camera policy must outline who has access to the footage. Make sure to only give access to select people and only allow law enforcement to view the footage in private. You should also keep saved footage in protected folders, never in personal computers, so that nobody can just open them as they please.
Additionally, you should make it clear to homeowners that they will not have access to the security footage. Let them know that these cameras exist to monitor and deter crime in common areas. They are not to be used for personal reasons. In the event that a homeowner would like to view the footage, they must go through the proper channels and issue a subpoena.
5. Destruction of Footage
Finally, your HOA security camera policy should state how long the association will keep the footage before it is destroyed. There is no universal standard for the duration of storage, but something like 30 days is a good place to start.
It is imperative that you communicate the HOA’s policy on security cameras with all members of the community. This way, homeowners will know what to expect and how to proceed.
The Law on HOA Security Cameras
Are security cameras a violation of privacy? When it comes to the installation and placement of security cameras, it is essential to check federal, state, and local laws for guidance. Generally, though, the law says that you can install security cameras provided they don’t interfere with residents’ rights to a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Again, this means you can place HOA or condo security cameras in public spaces but never in locker rooms, restrooms, and changing rooms. Cameras also can’t face privately-owned areas like the interior of a resident’s home. Security camera laws can differ from state to state as well, so it is best to talk to an attorney before taking action.
The Law on Audio Surveillance
It is illegal to record private conversations without the consent of the parties involved. Thus, if your security cameras record audio as well, you may violate the law and put the HOA at risk. Thankfully, most security cameras forgo audio recording and only record video.
What Do Your Governing Documents Say?
Can an HOA put up cameras? It depends on the homeowners association. Not all HOAs have the same rules about security camera installation. To know what your HOA says about the matter, you must check your governing documents.
Some governing documents may stay mum on the issue, especially for older communities. In that case, it is a good idea to amend your documents to include your HOA or condominium security camera policy. When in doubt, consult your HOA manager or attorney.
Installing Security Cameras in Common Areas
Homeowners associations usually place security cameras in and around common areas. Many do this in an attempt to discourage criminal activity or catch them in the act. Security cameras don’t come cheap, though, and you should expect to pay ongoing expenses even after installation. This includes maintenance and video storage expenses as well as the cost of upgrading the entire security system.
But, not all HOAs have the budget for security cameras. This brings up the question of whether or not it is advisable to install dummy cameras instead. If you decide to go with dummy cameras, remember that you are still bound by security camera privacy laws.
While dummy cameras are significantly less expensive and can discourage crime, it is generally not a good idea to use them over real cameras. The HOA might face liability issues when a resident becomes a victim of a crime and mistakenly believes the camera caught all of it on tape.
Another point of contention is whether or not to post signs alerting people of the camera’s presence. Although there is no law that requires HOAs to post these signs, you should still make sure to inform all homeowners of the locations of the security cameras. Moreover, posting a notice or sign can enhance their deterrent effects.
Are homeowners associations required to install security cameras? Unless state law or your governing documents say so, HOAs are not required to install security cameras around the community. Make sure to check with your HOA manager or attorney if you feel unsure.
Can an HOA Restrict Security Cameras?
Can HOA deny security cameras? Homeowners associations can prohibit members from installing security cameras in common areas, as the HOA should be the only one with the ability to do so. When it comes to cameras in individual properties, though, you should check state laws and your governing documents.
Can I still cameras in my condo or home? Homeowners or condo owners can generally install cameras in the interior of their property. For outdoor cameras, though, not all associations have the same rules. An HOA may allow it provided it does not violate their neighbors’ reasonable expectation of privacy.
If your HOA decides to permit it, homeowners must still follow the HOA rules regarding security cameras. You can also consider establishing an approval process for outdoor cameras on homeowner property, especially since these can be considered architectural changes and may impact curb appeal.
Balancing Security and Privacy in HOA Communities
Although security is not entirely the responsibility of an HOA, residents will feel more at ease living in a community that works to promote it. Surveillance cameras can help prevent crime, but they also bring up the issue of privacy in neighborhoods. To make sure your HOA remains protected, it is critical to come up with an HOA security camera policy of your own.
An HOA management company can also help you navigate the complexities of video surveillance. Begin your search for the best one in your area today using our comprehensive online directory.
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