To protect and secure their property, landlords should consider installing security cameras as a way to deter break-ins, theft (especially with the popularity of Amazon delivery), vandalism, and other illegal activities. In fact, installing cameras is equally beneficial to tenants, as it can prevent their property from being damaged or stolen.
Landlords of any size face a myriad of challenges, especially if they are self-managing landlords. Installing security cameras can help mitigate the risk of property damage or theft, be beneficial for any legal issues (both for landlords and tenants), and can deter other criminal activity on your property. Before installing cameras on your rental property, however, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
Security Cameras Inside the Property
Depending on how your property is set up, installing security cameras is regulated to specific areas. Cameras can NOT be installed where tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy, i.e., inside the unit itself. However, if you own an apartment building or multi-unit property, common or public areas such as a building entryway, lobby, mailroom, hallway, elevator, or stairwell are generally okay.
Cameras Outside the Property
For the most part, security cameras installed outside the property, facing “public spaces” like sidewalks, parking lots, stairwells, and building entrances are okay. Make sure that cameras are not pointed towards any windows— including any neighbors! There are also public spaces in which you cannot install cameras, such as an “outdoor community bathroom, the changing rooms near the pool, and even the laundry room” (source). These spaces have a reasonable expectation of privacy and installing security cameras in them would land you in legal trouble.
Security Cameras with Audio
One thing to consider is whether or not your video will also have an audio feed, which has to be in compliance with state audio recording laws and federal wiretapping laws. Audio recording laws are much more strict than video recording laws, so if you’re planning to use audio, be extra careful when setting up the cameras. Any audio that can be picked up while they are inside their unit is also illegal.
Research and Consult
Before installing security cameras, make sure you’re aware and knowledgable of any state and federal laws. Consult a legal representative to be sure whatever camera system you intend on installing and where will be located is in compliance with local, state, and federal laws.
Should I Tell My Tenants I’m Installing Security Cameras?
Good etiquette would be to discuss and inform your tenant of any plans to install security cameras and where you expect them to be located. Consider adding a note in the lease and be upfront about it—often when viewing units, prospective tenants consider security cameras to be important safety measures that can protect their property from being stolen or damaged. Often, landlords who install security cameras in front of their buildings, hallways, or parking lots will also post signs indicating that the area is under video surveillance (which can also help discourage theft, break-ins, vandalism).
The golden rule of security cameras is that tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so make sure where you’re planning to install security cameras doesn’t infringe upon that privacy (i.e., no installing security cameras inside the unit or in locations outside the unit that could compromise their privacy).
In general, security cameras that are being installed outside the property or in apartment hallways (i.e. “public places”) should comply with legal statutes. Different states have different laws about recording, so make sure you familiarize yourself with them before installing security cameras.