Rental Management

What To Know Before Installing Cameras at Your Rental Property

August 14, 2023

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Is Installing Cameras The Right Move For Your Property?

Installing top-notch security cameras at your rentals can mean safter communities, less crime, and a better environment for attracting and retaining tenants. 

However, sometimes security can come at the expense of privacy. When your tenants start to feel like their rights and privacy have been infringed upon, that’s when you have a problem. Installing cameras in public places for general security and surveillance is almost always a good idea, but there are some legal and practical considerations to keep in mind too. 

In this article, we discuss a few things every landlord needs to know before installing cameras at their rental property. 

Cameras can increase security and deter crime 

There are many good reasons to install security cameras at your rental properties, especially for multi-family complexes. Cameras installed in shared, high-traffic areas like parking lots, hallways, pools, and gyms demonstrate the presence of security and can reassure your tenants that you take it seriously. They are also a helpful tool should you receive any reports of suspicious activity around your properties—you can easily check the footage to verify any claims or see whether further investigation/police involvement is necessary. 

Install video-only cameras

If you’re installing cameras, you should always read up on your state’s laws on visual and audio recordings so that you know what the legal expectations are. 

If your state is a two-party consent state (including California, Florida, Massachusetts, and others), it’s illegal to record audio content without the consent of everyone being recorded. This means any cameras you install will need to be video-only, unless you have the express permission of the people who will be recorded.  

In one-party consent states, audio recordings are permitted when at least one person in the conversation gives consent to be recorded. This means you would need to be present and participate in any conversations you are recording. Since you likely don’t plan on babysitting your cameras, it’s best to stick to video-only cameras at your properties. In fact, most traditional surveillance cameras are video-only and generally don’t include microphones to capture audio. 

Cameras cannot be installed where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy 

No matter which state you live in, it’s illegal to install cameras in places where others have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This means you cannot install cameras inside your tenant’s home, inside public restrooms/locker rooms, or outside pointing inside any of those spaces. Your tenants can install cameras inside or around their homes themselves, but as a landlord, you should respect their private space and limit cameras to public areas and facilities only.  

Know where to put security cameras 

Where can you place cameras? Beyond private spaces, are there any other places you should avoid? 

When deciding where to put security cameras, it’s important to know where you shouldn’t place them. Depending on your state, it may or may not be legal to place hidden cameras without letting your tenants know where they are located. Even if hidden, the cameras should still be located in public places (e.g., you can’t install a camera in the front room of a rental unit, because this is the resident’s private space).  

Where to Place Outdoor Security Cameras 

If you’re wondering where to place outdoor security cameras, here are a few common areas: 

  • Outdoor pools 
  • Parking lots 
  • High-traffic areas 
  • Mailbox or package reception areas  
  • Playgrounds or grill areas 
  • Other shared outdoor spaces 

Where to Place Indoor Security Cameras 

For indoor cameras, here are a few places it’s ok to install cameras: 

  • Entryways and exits 
  • Hallways 
  • Leasing offices 
  • Laundry rooms 
  • Mailrooms 
  • Indoor pools 
  • Gyms (but not inside gym locker rooms) 

Since these spaces are publicly accessible to your tenants and are not reasonably expected to be private places, you are allowed to install cameras. 

Occasionally, a tenant might request that a camera be placed somewhere that they’ve noticed suspicious activity. Even if it is at the tenant’s specific request, the above legal restrictions still apply. You should only install an outdoor security camera for apartment homes and avoid placing cameras inside any property. You can still permit your tenants to purchase and install their own cameras to place inside the rental unit if they wish.   

Install proper signage if necessary 

In most states, putting up signs about cameras/video surveillance isn’t a legal requirement. However, you may be required to put up signs if the camera is hidden or if privacy may be expected. Check with your state’s laws to be sure about whether you need to put up signs. However, keep in mind that signs can be a courtesy to tenants as well as a deterrent to crime and other suspicious activity.  

Conclusion 

Installing cameras is a great first step to a trustworthy security system that will keep your tenants and properties safe. However, it’s crucial to understand the laws surrounding the installation and use of cameras in your state so you can avoid tenant complaints and lawsuits. 

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