When it comes to security cameras, Washington is one of the most regulated states in the country. In Washington State, there are more laws regulating this industry than in any other state. Still, as a landlord or property manager, you want to make sure that your property is protected and monitored at all times.
Considering the privacy concerns, it makes sense that rules on landlord surveillance cameras are rigorous. Yet, it’s possible to familiarize yourself with the laws on security cameras without having to read thru a mound of legal documents before finally deciding on whether you will or will not get a security system installed.
Security Camera Laws in Washington State FAQs:
- Is it legal to record on security cameras in Washington State?
- What is considered illegal surveillance in Washington State?
- Can a neighbor point a security camera at my house in Washington State?
- Can I install security cameras on my rental property?
- Where can you install security cameras?
- Jump straight to the conclusion!
Is it legal to record on security cameras in Washington State?
In general, it is legal to record on security cameras in Washington state. Although Washington state law requires that all parties to a conversation or electronic communication consent before a recording occurs, the footage captured in public spaces is exempt because people generally do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
That being said, it is important to note that a verified response is required for most counties before they respond to an alarm. A verified response simply means that the police agency needs to have proof that the alarm occurring is not a false alarm before they will respond. Additionally, most counties will issue fines if you have too many false alarms.
Video and Audio Surveillance Laws in Washington State
In Washington, most counties and municipalities have their own ordinances, statutes, and laws regarding what home security providers can and cannot do and what individuals getting such systems installed can and cannot do. Important video surveillance laws include:
- The Electronic Security Association of Washington provides detailed information, especially for security providers.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.73.030 deals with recording audio via security cameras.
What is considered illegal surveillance in Washington State?
Washington state law requires that all parties to a conversation or electronic communication consent before a recording occurs. Violations as per WA Rev Code § 9.73.030 are considered a gross misdemeanor and can also lead to civil damages as per § 9.73.080 (penalty), § 9.73.060 (civil damages).
Regarding video surveillance, the guidance is straightforward, simply avoid audio. While most newer security cameras record both audio and video, it is generally legal to film areas that are viewable to the public. This is because Washington law only requires consent before recording a communication or conversation. As such, video surveillance cameras that do not have an audio component or are muted by the operator are most likely within the bounds of privacy law.
Can a neighbor point a security camera at my house in Washington State?
According to Washington State Police, if the security cameras are on private property and are not recording audio, you can utilize them any way you want, as long as you are not intentionally infringing on your neighbor’s privacy.
Can I install security cameras on my rental property?
Yes, as the property owner, you can install security cameras on your rental property. Unfortunately, since there is no definitive legal framework to justify landlords’ legality in installing security cameras on rental properties, this one gets a little complicated. However, as the landlord, you can justify installing security cameras to protect your property and ensure the safety of your tenants.
Where can you install security cameras?
Installing security cameras in public spaces is a reasonable and practical way to deter break-ins, burglaries, and other suspicious activity. It is completely lawful to have visible surveillance cameras in common areas such as the driveway, front door, backyard, garage, apartment halls, lobbies, vestibules, stairwells, and other areas where access is generally unrestricted.
Washington is a beautiful state, and most residents would tell you that it is one of the best places to live in the United States. Nonetheless, the state has one of the highest property crime rates in the country, so living there, while enjoyable, does necessitate some extra vigilance.
If appropriately used, security cameras can add to the safety of a community or property. However, if a homeowner isn’t cautious, using a security camera and the film captured by it could result in a run-in with the law.
The bottom line is that while security cameras are perfectly legal in Washington State, it is a good idea to review local regulations and consult with a professional security provider so that you get the optimal security system for your residence.