There has always been some debate surrounding HOA security cameras and whether or not they should be allowed. While there are good points on both sides, it is important to fully understand their legalities before installing your own.
In this article:
Navigating the Legalities of HOA Security Cameras
Can an HOA install security cameras? This is a common question asked by many communities and homeowners alike. Though, the answer is not as simple as a yes or no. In order to determine whether HOA or condo security cameras are allowed in your community, you must first look at the situation from all sides.
Check the Law on HOA CCTV Cameras
Since the law holds precedence over everything else, it is paramount to check federal, state, or local laws first. Your community may be located in an area with regulations on HOA security cameras. Generally, though, states allow associations to install security cameras in common areas, provided they do not interfere with privacy laws. Community members have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. Therefore, your HOA’s cameras should not point at any private or privately-owned spaces.
California is an example of a state with such laws. According to the California Penal Code §647, security cameras in a homeowners association must not view or be present at restrooms, locker rooms, and the inside of a member’s property or unit. Other states likely have similar laws, though it is important to verify for yourself or check with your HOA lawyer.
Check Your Governing Documents
You must also check your association’s governing documents for any provisions concerning camera use. These documents should give you information on what you can and can’t do with HOA security cameras. Remember that no two associations are the same, so you may have a different set of rules and regulations about security cameras than your neighboring association. If you are unsure about anything, it is always a good idea to consult your association’s lawyer or HOA manager.
Installing HOA Surveillance Cameras in Common Areas
Once you have established that it is okay to install security cameras in your common areas, you can proceed with its implementation. Expect a reaction from residents, though most of them will likely welcome the idea of increased security in the community. Identify the placement of security cameras early on, making sure they do not impact the association’s appearance in a negative way.
You must also allocate a budget for the installation of security cameras in your HOA. Keep in mind that security cameras do not come cheap, but they are an investment worth making. In addition, you may need to set aside some funds if you intend to hire someone to monitor the footage on a daily basis.
The simple presence of security cameras in your community may already deter crime, but they can’t stop crime when it actually takes place. With someone monitoring the cameras, law enforcement can be alerted.
Speaking of which, since their main function is to discourage crime, it may be counterproductive to post signs alerting passersby of the presence of surveillance cameras. There are no laws that require associations to mark these cameras with signs. If you wish to alert homeowners of the cameras’ locations for comfort’s sake, it would be best to communicate it directly with them.
Who Can Have Access to HOA Security Camera Footage?
Not everyone should be granted authority to view security camera footage. Generally, it is best to only give access to a small group of people. Other than that, you can release footage to the following persons:
- Law enforcement when appropriate
- Residents who can show a reasonable need for it
- Parties who can present you with proper legal documents such as a subpoena
Your HOA can also opt to hire a third-party monitoring service with its own policies on records security.
Can an HOA Restrict Security Cameras for Homeowners?
It is one thing for homeowners to put up security cameras inside of their homes but another to install them on their home exteriors. A member may complain to the HOA board about their neighbor’s camera interfering with their privacy. This can be a tricky problem to deal with, but your board must remain steadfast and adhere to the rules.
Generally speaking, an HOA does have the right to place restrictions on homeowner security cameras. Check your governing documents to see what policies you have in place concerning residents installing their own security cameras. If you have no such policies, it is time to consider creating one.
Creating an Effective Policy for Residents
It is wise to have a security camera policy that applies to residents in your HOA. In so doing, you can set a standard and regulate the installation of these cameras according to your provisions. When crafting a policy for HOA security cameras, it is imperative to consider the following:
The presence of security cameras may give homeowners peace of mind, but it can also negatively affect curb appeal. This applies to all types of security cameras, but especially large, bulky ones. An HOA is, after all, responsible for maintaining the appearance of the community in an effort to protect property values. If a homeowner decides to place a camera outside of their home, it can interfere with the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood.
Privacy is a common issue among homeowners, not just in the context of security cameras. Members of the community have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. As such, the security camera privacy laws that apply to the association should also apply to homeowners. Therefore, a homeowner should never be allowed to install an exterior camera that points into another owner’s property (backyards, into windows, etc.).
3. Request for Approval
It is a good idea for your HOA board to treat homeowner security camera installations as architectural changes. That means homeowners must request the board for approval to put them up. Ask homeowners to include information on where they intend to install these cameras. Then, when reviewing any requests, you must consider whether the camera will have an impact on aesthetics and privacy.
All Things Considered
Although homeowners associations are not legally required to have surveillance cameras in the community, they do serve a purpose. HOA security cameras can help deter crime and make homeowners feel safer in their community. But, improper placement may violate privacy laws and lead to legal liability. When installing security cameras in your HOA, make sure to consider both aesthetics and privacy. It is equally important to scrutinize homeowners’ requests to put up their own security cameras on the exterior of their properties.
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