Your property is important to you. You’ve invested time into finding, refinishing, and maintaining it. It’s the core of your business, and it’s only natural that you would want to do all that you can to ensure it is kept safe.
Many landlords question if they can set up some type of security monitoring for this purpose. Can you put up surveillance cameras? If so, where? Not all landlords are familiar with what type of surveillance is and is not allowed on a property.
Landlord surveillance cameras laws in each state are pretty strict because privacy is a big concern when it comes down to it. Still, there are some ways that you are legally allowed to protect and monitor your property even while it is being rented to a tenant.
A Table Of Contents For Landlord-Installed Surveillance Cameras
- Can You Put Up Surveillance Cameras? If So, Where?
- Defining Common vs. Private Areas
- How You Can Use Surveillance Footage
- Consent And Other Landlord Surveillance Cameras Laws By State
- The Future Of Smart Rentals
The simple answer is that yes, you can put up surveillance cameras. The full answer, however, is more complex!
The idea is that you can only set up cameras in common areas where there is not any expectation of privacy, such as in the living room.
Areas that are common to all tenants or focused on the outside of the property, for example, are more reasonable options for camera monitoring:
- Shared apartment hallways, common rooms, stairwells, etc.
- Parking lot
- Front door
- Back door
- Garage door
- Shared patios
- Outside of house
It is both reasonable and expected for you to take some security measures as the landlord of a property, so consider where it is legal for you to set up cameras and consider it as a next step for your business.
The cameras, however, need to be out-in-the-open so that the person knows they are being clearly recorded. Landlord-installed surveillance cameras inside a smoke detector, for example, would not be permissible if they are in the tenant’s private room or home.
Instead, the landlord-installed surveillance cameras can only be used when they are clearly consented to, installed publicly, and compliant with all local and state recording regulations. Landlords that do not follow laws surrounding camera usage could face legal trouble including serious fines or even jail time.
Common areas are areas that any tenant in the building could pass through if the unit is in a multi-unit building. Common areas might also refer to areas such as front doors, stairwells, lobbies, and parking lots that most people could gain access to without a key.
Common areas are generally OK for placing cameras. While cameras are not allowed to be used to track a tenant’s life or movements in any way, they can be set up to ensure the safety and surveillance of particular areas.
Private areas, on the other hand, are areas in which a tenant would reasonably expect privacy. Anywhere in an apartment unit once the door is shut would fall on this list, such as bathrooms, living rooms, and bedrooms.
All images and video captured using surveillance cameras needs to be used for just that: surveillance! In this case, we are talking about safety monitoring and surveillance as opposed to simply watching another.
Footage gathered by you in common spaces cannot be used to monitor a tenant’s activities, loyalty to the lease, or any other personal detail. Using the footage to gather any information about the tenant about their personal life is considered harassment and punishable by law.
While it might be tempting to use surveillance cameras to catch tenants in the act of doing something wrong, this could be a legal issue, so you will want to tread carefully. Focus on using this type of system only to ensure the safety of your tenants, and you shouldn’t have any problem at all.
When using cameras, it is important to know what your state and local laws have to say about using cameras. Some will have very specific forms that need to be filled out to ensure that the tenant is properly informed about the cameras and has given their consent to be recorded.
Laws about landlord surveillance cameras in Massachusetts, for example, is a two-party consent law, so it is important that both parties know that they are being recorded, particularly when they are having an audible conversation.
The key thing to remember here is that you cannot simply record anyone at any time, especially not as their landlord. The tenants need to be able to trust you if you want them to keep renting from you, and setting up cameras without their consent is a fast way to ruin any trust that you may have earned.
Tenant harassment of all forms is illegal, so you need to be careful that you aren’t abusing the power that you have over your tenants. It’s okay to be concerned about the safety of your property and tenants, but it isn’t okay to overstep legal boundaries.
Can you put up surveillance cameras? Yes; you can, but you need to be informed about where they are allowed. Additionally, you need to be sure that it is made clear to all tenants that it is possible for them to be recorded when in those areas.
As technology becomes more proficient and specialized for the rental industry, we can expect to see an even bigger uptick in smart rental technology that may include cameras. It will be interesting to see how the laws continue to change and adapt to cover these technological advances.
If you aren’t yet ready to make the leap to technology and are stuck in the old ways, don’t worry. You can try using fake security cameras instead. While they don’t actually record anything, they can deter thieves and create a safer environment for everyone living at the property.