There are plenty of reasons to have security cameras in apartment buildings–to deter thieves, to identify criminals, and to prevent damage to the building by vandals or even by nightmare tenants. But if you want to install cameras around a residential building, there are some laws and guidelines that you need to be aware of.
We’ll talk about where you can install cameras, whether you can also record audio, what information you need to give your tenants regarding surveillance, and a few recommendations for how and where to place apartment security cameras.
Everything About Apartment Security Camera Laws
In the majority of states, it is against the law to install surveillance cameras in apartment complex areas and rental units where individuals reasonably expect privacy.
You can install security cameras to monitor their rental property, but it is illegal to place them where tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Moving forward, if landlords install hidden surveillance cameras in apartment complexes and rental homes to prevent theft, state laws mention that they should be pointed in common areas and not in places with an expectation of privacy.
Part of rental property management is to inform the tenants or parties involved in the rental agreement that video surveillance, hidden cameras, CCTV, or any video recording equipment is installed in their rented property.
Where is It Legal to Install Apartment Security Cameras?
As we go over these points, remember that these legal guidelines are generally accurate across most states in the US, but you must refer to the relevant laws in your locality.
This includes common-use areas such as:
- Laundry rooms
- Game rooms
- Front door
- Entries and exits
- Parking lots of garages
Accordingly, rental property managers and building owners cannot install cameras in any areas where tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy or “the right to be left alone.”
This means, at a minimum, no cameras in private rooms like bedrooms and bathrooms, but generally extends to the entirety of the property.
Can Landlords Install Security Cameras?
Rental property managers, landlords, and building owners can install apartment security and outdoor cameras in all public areas of the property.
However, it should not be used to spy on other tenants but to secure your property but be used to monitor and maintain security within the property.
You should also ensure that your security cameras don’t look in the windows of the units in your building or any neighboring buildings.
Your neighbors have a right to complain about CCTV cameras that they believe are improperly placed, so it’s much better to be very intentional about what areas your cameras cover and their specific field of vision.
Can a Rental Property Manager Install Audio Recording Devices Alongside Security Cameras?
While cameras are legal, the installation of audio recording devices depends on your state. In a general sense, according to the Federal Wiretap Act, “it is illegal to intentionally or purposefully intercept, disclose, or use the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication through the use of a device.”
In some states, installing audio recording devices at apartment buildings is illegal. Other states have own laws (local laws) that allow these devices in apartment buildings but stipulate that the tenants must be informed of the location of these devices.
If they are informed and still have private conversations near the audio recording device, the law in these states considers that they consent to record their conversations.
In other states, the property manager or owner must have written consent from any building tenant to be legally allowed to record audio on the premises.
Obtaining this consent gets complicated when new tenants are regularly moving into your apartment building. It may even turn away potential tenants, as people tend to be more sensitive to audio recording than security cameras.
In most cases, it isn’t necessary to have audio and video recording equipment, and it is legally more straightforward to have video. Properly placed CCTV cameras with high-quality picture definition are adequate for almost all apartment security issues.
What Information About Apartment Security Cameras Do Tenants Have a Right to Know?
In all states, any apartment security cameras must be visible–no hidden cameras.
You or your property manager must also inform the tenants that the property features surveillance cameras and the areas the cameras cover.
While you are not legally required to post signage that indicates that surveillance cameras cover the property, if you do, it may increase the overall security of the building. The more complex a building or property is to break into, the less likely thieves are even to try–most burglars are opportunists who target places with obviously minimal security.
Security camera signs will also bolster your efforts to keep your tenants informed of where your security cameras are and help them feel safer in your facility in general.
Conversely, tenants are legally allowed to install cameras within their units–as long as the lease does not prohibit it, and they don’t damage the building. Primarily, these WiFi cameras run like video baby monitors or are lightweight with a WiFi camera system.
Tenants can place cameras within their private areas, such as bathrooms or bedrooms, if they so desire, but in regards to their fellow tenants in other units, privacy laws still apply. They can’t have cameras that look into other people’s windows, and, depending on the state, they can’t have audio recordings without the consent of everyone who enters the apartment.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to have a section in your lease that discloses where your own security cameras are located, what information you are legally allowed to record, and stipulations regarding tenant-installed cameras.
How To Make Sure Camera Positions are Optimal for Legal Requirements & Security Concerns?
First, ensure you can access information on your local or state law regarding tenant rights and privacy law.
It’s essential to inform yourself about these laws before you start a camera installation project. Websites such as FindLaw.com are a helpful place to start, or you can employ the services of a consulting attorney in your area.
Secondly, hire a professional in installing cameras. Installing security cameras in rental property or apartment buildings is legal, but you must comply with legal requirements.
Even though you may be able to do the physical installation work yourself, a professional security installer can make the process better in several ways:
- Help you select and purchase the right camera for your needs
- Obtain the best angle and lighting for each camera
- Integrate your cameras with existing security measures, such as card readers, keypads, or other access control for a more efficient and comprehensive security system
Recent Updates on Apartment Security Camera Laws
To enhance resident safety in Prince George’s County, the County Council passed a bill on October 2023 that mandates owners of high-occupancy buildings and age-restricted senior residences to install video surveillance systems on their rental properties.
Under this new regulation, property owners must set up surveillance cameras in various areas, including parking lots, sidewalks, and trash enclosures. They must also retain the recorded video feed for at least 30 days.
Additionally, property owners must store footage for at least 180 days from the date it is requested by law enforcement or a tenant. This initiative aims to contribute to the safety of residents in response to the growing concerns about rising crime in the area.
The recently approved legislation requires that all cameras must have a minimum resolution of 1080p.
To ensure compliance with the tenant’s unit, it also establishes a potential civil penalty of up to $500 for those who fail to meet this requirement.
In cases where a landlord does not address subpar equipment, a tenant can file a complaint with the Director of the Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement (DPIE).
Landlords can install cameras and audio recordings in rental properties or an apartment building, but based on apartment security camera laws, they must be placed in common areas.
Ensure it has the tenant’s reasonable expectation of privacy and should be mentioned in the lease agreement. Hidden cameras pointed in private areas are not allowed.
Tenants should not install surveillance cameras in locations where tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Local installers are also well-versed in the practical application of apartment security camera laws–an excellent complement to legal advice from an attorney.
Do you need to update and install a security camera system in your apartment building? Call us at (888) 991-8616, or contact us here for a free consultation and more information on how we can help you create a robust security system without running afoul of state laws.