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Condo | HOA Lawyers

May Owners Install a Video Doorbell or Other Security Camera in a Condominium?

Many boards are not sure what to do when an owner requests to install a video security camera on the condominium property.  Boards often have concerns about privacy of the other residents and whether to permit (or prohibit) cameras an owner may want to install.

Some owners want to install cameras inside their home that face outward such as a peephole camera.  The board generally does not have the authority to prohibit the installation of cameras inside the unit that captures activity outside the home.

Generally, the board has the authority to permit or deny owners’ requests to install cameras in the common elements.  This typically includes areas such as on the roofs, siding, trim, and other exterior surfaces of the building including the exterior side of the door(s).  The board should consider adopting rules that either prohibit exterior cameras outright or specify where owners may be permitted to install exterior cameras. When the board makes these decisions, they should balance the owners’ desire for increased security against the damage to the common elements that may be caused by the installation and maintenance of the camera.  

A resident cannot successfully claim that the association or another owner is committing the tort known as invasion of privacy if the resident does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area where they are observed on camera.  To successfully pursue a claim for invasion of privacy, one must show the wrongful intrusion into their private activities in such a manner as to outrage, or cause mental suffering, shame, or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities. For example, photographing a person through the windows of their residence while they are naked would be considered a wrongful intrusion in to private activities. 

At least one Ohio court has held that an invasion of privacy cannot occur in the common elements of a condominium property, because residents do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy while in the common elements.  All residents may use the common elements.  Residents and their guests may not reasonably expect their activities in the common elements to be free from the view of third parties including, but not limited to, the other residents and security cameras on the property.  A resident or guest is unlikely to prevail in their claim that the cameras are invading their privacy, as long as cameras are not viewing activities inside the home or in a place where there is an expectation of privacy such as clubhouse restrooms.

The bottom line is that condominium boards generally have the power to either permit or prohibit security cameras mounted on the exterior common elements.  Boards should now consider how they want to address requests to install security cameras and have a plan in place when owners submit a request.  Planning ahead will make the review process much smoother and easier to handle.   

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