Landlords will often install security cameras on their rental properties to monitor for theft, property damage, vandalism, and any other form illegal activity. However, privacy is a pervasive topic in our world today, and whenever security cameras are in use, it brings up the “security vs privacy” debate. You may be wondering if a landlord can put security cameras on their rental properties?
Landlords are within their rights to install security cameras on the outside of their rental properties provided the cameras are in plain sight and do not view private areas of the home. Landlords should familiarize themselves with state and local regulations and privacy laws as some jurisdictions require disclosure and consent for the use of security cameras.
You may also be interested to know that landlords and tenants may also install security cameras inside rental properties, but they must follow certain guidelines to avoid getting into trouble. Read on to find out more!
Why Having Surveillance Cameras Is Not Such a Bad Idea
Installation of security cameras in and around rental properties offers a lot of benefits. When used appropriately, they offer a legally accepted and affordable solution to help landlords and property managers alleviate some of the risks of renting a property.
Here are some of the benefits of security cameras in rental properties:
1. Deter Theft and Property Damage
A lot of research has shown that security cameras are very effective in reducing crime. One study(1) showed that the second largest reduction in crime with use of CCTV systems was when security cameras were used in residential areas.
Security cameras not only allow the remote monitoring of the property and any attachments, but just the presence of a security camera is sometimes sufficient to deter crimes. Although the evidence in not conclusive(2), some suggest that if a burglar sees that a house has security cameras, they would just move on as for them it would not be worth the trouble.
2. Monitor Maintenance Work and Housekeepers
Rental properties often require ongoing maintenance and occaisional repairs. Landlords and tenants are not always available to supervise these, and if these jobs are outsourced to third-party maintenance service providers, it makes a lot of sense to want to keep an eye on the repair workers as they enter and leave and move around inside the property and complete the repair job.
Security cameras also allows landlords and property managers to monitor other strangers that are given access to the property such as cleaning staff, housekeepers, vendors, and food delivery services to ensure these visitors arrive and leave on time and don’t wonder into a part of the property they are not permitted to access.
3. Benefits for the Tenant
A lot of the benefits of security cameras installed by a landlord in rental properties are passed on to the tenants.
Tenants will feel safer knowing there is a watchful surveillance camera increasing the security in their home and monitoring who is allowed access to the property. The recordings can limit theft from maintenance associates or unwanted guests, and visible cameras can also deter theft by porch pirates and protect your precious amazon delivery.
Where Can Security Cameras Be Installed in Rental Properties
Security Cameras Outside Properties
A landlord can put security cameras outside the house or property so long as they are:
- Installed in clear site (not hidden).
- Facing public spaces such as the street, parking, driveway, front entrance or any access point, and garage entrance. Some sources also suggest security cameras may be viewing shared outdoor spaces such as a shared patio, pool deck or backyard.
- Not pointed at or viewing the inside of the house or an area where there is reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, a security camera positioned at the entrance or front door must not be pointed to have a view of the inside of the house when the door is opened. Similarly, a camera placed at the front or side of the house cannot be pointed at any windows.
- Not pointed at a neighbor’s window or any space on the neighbor’s property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- Camera does not have audio recording. With regards to audio recordings, in all 50 states it is considered illegal to record any conversation that you are not a party to, without a consent from all parties involved in the conversations. Meaning if your security camera has audio recording function and happens to record a conversation between two tenants standing in a public place where video recording is permitted, the audio component would be considered illegal.
Security Cameras Inside Properties
Landlords are also allowed to install security cameras inside rental properties. This particularly applies to putting up security cameras in apartment complexes and properties with shared accommodations.
In properties such as apartment buildings or shared housing, a landlord can install security cameras in common areas. Common areas inside a property are defined as spaces that are shared by and accessible for use to all tenants. These can include building lobbies, hallways, stairwells, laundry facilities, and common rooms in apartment buildings.
|Fun Fact: Did you know that many elevators in public and private buildings, apartment complexes and hotels have security cameras? You can read more about this here.|
With regards cameras installed in common areas, the similar rules apply as to outside cameras:
- Installed in clear site. Hidden cameras inside rental properties are illegal in most states. In most cases, tenants must be made aware of their presence by the landlord.
- Not pointed at or viewing an area where there is reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, while security cameras can be installed in a hallway to monitor for theft or property damage, cameras in apartment hallways cannot be pointing at an apartment door or window. If a hallway camera has a view of the inside of an apartment through a window or an apartment door when it is opened, it would be considered a violation of the tenant’s privacy.
- Not installed in private spaces. Private spaces include areas such as common washrooms and bathrooms, change rooms, and locker rooms. It also goes without saying that the inside of an apartment or house is a private space and therefore, a landlord generally cannot install surveillance cameras inside the house or rental unit.
- Camera does not have audio recording. Similar to outdoor security cameras, in all 50 states it is considered illegal to record any conversation that you are not a party to without a consent from all parties involved in the conversations.
These are all general guidelines, and some states have additional specific laws. Landlords should follow up with state legislation before installing any outdoor or interior cameras to ensure they are compliant with the law.
|Tip: Have you noticed the security camera sometimes has a red or blue light? Read more about what CCTV camera lights mean here.|
Can a Tenant Install a Security Camera Inside?
Tenants have more rights than landlords when it comes to installing cameras inside their rental units. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind for their camera installations.
Using WiFi security cameras is usually preferable compared to wired systems because WiFi cameras are generally easier to install and require no or very minimal drilling and therefore would produce no or very little damage to the walls.
WiFi cameras also usually do not require a consent from the landlord. However there is no harm in letting your landlord know (unless you’re trying to catch your landlord accessing your house or apartment without your consent or knowledge.)
Also, cameras cannot be pointed at a neighbor’s home, window, or doorway.
Lastly, in some instances tenants may want to install security cameras outside their rented house or apartment. Tenants are entitled to do so if the installation does not cause any damage to the building, the cameras’ views are exclusive of their house or unit (meaning the cameras are not pointed at a neighbor’s door, window or even a common area used by other tenants) and that there is no audio recording.
If not abused, security cameras in rental properties can benefit both landlords and tenants because they can create a sense of shared security.
Both landlords and tenants have legal rights to installing cameras on a rental property. However, there are laws and regulations that they need to abide by when doing so. These laws may vary between states and local jurisdictions, and landlords and tenants alike should refer to these laws before installing security cameras.