Landlords invest a lot of effort and time into their rental properties, from finding renters to maintaining the property. The security of a property is crucial and should not be taken for granted.
Using security cameras is one of the simplest methods to see what’s happening on your property, but is that allowed? Let’s find out.
It is legal for landlords to place security cameras on the outside of the house, as long as the cameras are visible and do not record private areas of the house. As some jurisdictions demand disclosure and approval for the use of surveillance cameras, landlords should become acquainted with privacy, local, and state laws.
Let’s get into the details.
In the United States, some states have laws specifically pertaining to security cameras, but some cities may also have their own regulations.
Arkansas state law mandates permission for recording people in private settings.
In Utah, Tennessee, and Michigan, a landlord does not need permission to put cameras in public places; however, consent is essential for placing surveillance cameras in private areas.
Minnesota, Alabama, and Florida permit the use of hidden video surveillance in non-private settings.
Georgia allows the use of security cameras in private and public settings as long as the cameras are clearly visible.
In Hawaii, a property owner requires the permission of the people being monitored to put surveillance cameras.
In South Dakota, Kansas, and New Hampshire, a landlord needs permission for using hidden camera surveillance.
1. One-party consent laws – On the national level, it’s allowed to record a personal conversation – either over the phone or in person – if a landlord has the permission of at least one individual. It means that as long as a landlord is part of the private conversation that they are recording, it’s legal for them to record it.
2. Expectation of privacy laws – Under these laws, it’s generally legal to record video in public places. However, private places like bathrooms, bedrooms, hotel rooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms should be avoided.
Where in rental properties can security cameras be installed?
Surveillance equipment outside of buildings
A landlord can install cameras outside a home as long as they’re (not hidden).
- facing common areas like the front entrance, driveway, parking lot, and street.
- not facing the interior of the home or any place where a legitimate expectation of privacy exists.
- not directed at any area on the neighbor’s property where there is a legitimate expectation of privacy, including a window.
Security cameras inside properties
Landlords can place cameras inside rental properties. This is especially true for installing security cameras in apartment buildings.
A landlord may put security cameras in public areas of apartment complexes. Common areas inside a property are spaces that are shared by all tenants. Examples of common areas include common rooms, laundry facilities, hallways, and lobbies in apartment buildings.
The same regulations that apply to outside cameras also apply to cameras placed in common places:
- Installed in an open area. The majority of states forbid installing hidden security cameras inside rental homes. Most of the time, landlords must inform tenants of their existence.
- Not facing or looking at an area where a tenant would reasonably expect privacy. For instance, even though security cameras can be placed in a corridor to watch for property damage or theft, they cannot be directed at an apartment’s window or door. A breach of the tenant’s privacy would occur if a hallway security camera could see inside an apartment through an apartment door or a window when it was opened.
- Not a part of restricted areas. Areas like common restrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms are considered private places.
Before installing any exterior or interior cameras, landlords should check with state laws to make sure they are in compliance with the law.
Can a landlord put cameras in the shared house?
Typically, you may be allowed to put cameras in common areas of a shared house, such as hallways, entrances, and stairways, as long as the security cameras are used solely for security purposes and not for checking the tenants’ private conversations or activities.
However, if the surveillance cameras are installed in areas where tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms, bedrooms, or other private spaces, this may be a violation of their privacy rights and could be illegal.
Therefore, landlords should clearly communicate their intentions and get the permission of their tenants before putting any security cameras in a shared house.
Reasons for installing cameras
1. Prevent your neighbors from destroying property or using it illegally
When a landlord’s property has been empty or unused for a while, backyards or driveways of rental homes could be misused by neighbors. Installing security cameras in locations like backyards, garages, and driveways will help landlords avoid these problems and unwelcome concerns.
2. Prevent vandalism and theft
New rentals, vacation homes, and apartments are frequented by tourists and students looking for short-term housing, making them prime targets for petty thefts. Surveillance cameras are essential tools to keep a landlord’s property under observation, particularly if the apartments are situated in an area where the homeless are loitering and looking for targets to break into.
The rental house that is unprotected will be vulnerable to burglary because it is a simple target for thieves. When cameras at apartment buildings record the faces of burglars, a property insurance claim may be processed more quickly, minimizing a landlord’s financial loss and fostering a feeling of security among tenants.
3. Monitor cleaners and maintenance personnel
There are always going to be incidents where maintenance personnel break into other people’s homes and steal precious items like electronics, which ruins reputations and negatively impacts business. Landlords can keep tabs on their tenants and the regular maintenance visitors and cleaners by installing surveillance cameras at the major entrances or in the hallways of their apartments.
4. Keep visitors and tenants under control
Throwing wild parties with friends, overcrowding, and packing the houses with too many visitors are typical annoyances for landlords and tenants. Placing cameras in apartment buildings (parking areas, driveways, entrances) will help keep landlords informed about who is visiting and leaving the apartment. The cameras in rented property would also aid in decreasing foot traffic near renting units and apartments and certain mischievous behaviors of tenants.
Security cameras: best practices for landlords
Understanding what is and is not acceptable when putting surveillance cameras on your rental property can help you avoid potential legal issues. Keep in mind that the main reason to put cameras on your rental property is to protect your investment and your tenants. Always keep in mind to adhere to these best practices!
- Ensure that surveillance cameras are completely visible when installed
- Never put cameras anywhere inside the house
- Inform the tenant of security cameras by including them in the lease deal
It matters how a landlord uses camera footage
Property owners can justify installing surveillance cameras in public spaces in the name of security. But the use of this equipment by a property owner can still be considered harassment. Using surveillance cameras to interrogate a renter about their love life, lifestyle, and visitors is an example of harassment. Another thing to think about is the reason behind the landlord’s camera installation in the first place. Were the cameras placed in response to burglary reports? Or as a result of a renter complaining about unsatisfactory conditions? Are the devices just pointed at one particular unit or are they used consistently throughout the building?
Renters who experience harassment should keep a record of the incident. One method for renters to request the removal of the security cameras is through a letter to their landlord. Writing letters generates a record that the problem exists, the renter has informed their landlord of the issue, and the behavior is dangerous. These documents are also useful if an occupant ever needs to file a claim against the property owner for harassment.
Remember that the property owner may have the right to refuse to remove security cameras. However, it is always against the law to mistreat a tenant.
Does a landlord have to post a sign for security camera recording?
It’s not mandatory to post signs for surveillance camera recording, particularly if the equipment is visible to everyone in a public area. If a property owner wants to avoid potential consent problems (particularly if their state mandates it), posting a sign may help them avoid future issues.
Types of security cameras
Cameras that transmit their data using a Wi-Fi network are called wireless, or Wi-Fi, cameras.
These cameras are a great option for compact home security systems. Why? Because they are easier to use, more flexible, and easier to set up than conventional cameras. These cameras typically use cloud storage, which enables access to video from any location on a digital device.
- Simple to expand and add more security cameras
- The system is mobile and flexible
- Neat installation
- Possible interference with other Wi-Fi-reliant devices
- The signal can be hindered by walls, floors, and other building elements
- Restricted signal range
Battery-powered Wi-Fi camera
Placing a battery-operated Wi-Fi camera provides you with an entirely wire-free system. Additionally, a wire-free camera allows more flexibility, as landlords can easily reposition the device in different places as required. A battery-powered Wi-Fi camera device does have some limitations, though.
For one, putting a battery-operated device in a high-traffic area will cause its motion sensor to be activated, recording everything, depleting the battery fast, and necessitating replacement every few days.
The most important thing to note is that despite being battery-powered, such devices cannot do their job when the power is out.
Due to their reliance on closed transmission systems, wired systems have a tendency to send data more consistently and securely. On wired systems, image and audio data typically has better quality because there is no risk of interference during transmission.
These systems won’t be vulnerable to wireless hacking of any kind either. A hardwired cable is used to supply electricity to wired surveillance cameras. Also, it’s essential to know that a wired system will take longer to install and need wiring throughout the owner’s property wherever they want to put security cameras.
- Wireless hacking of home systems is impossible
- Continuous power to cameras
- Clear audio and video signals
- Reliable signals
- Wiring must be run to various places
- Lengthy wiring must be concealed
- Not portable
Surveillance cameras in rented houses and apartments can be advantageous for both tenants and landlords if they are not misused because they can foster a feeling of shared security.
While landlords have the legal right to put security cameras, it is essential to comply with laws and regulations that may differ between local jurisdictions and states. Therefore, owners should familiarize themselves with these rules before placing surveillance cameras.
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