Security Camera Laws in California: Complete Guide (2023)

Renting property comes with significant risks—property owners never know when a tenant or a visitor may destroy something. Even when property owners vet tenants before entering a lease agreement, they cannot predict how tenants will treat the property once they move in. 

Most landlords see apartment security cameras as a logical investment that addresses these concerns. Apartment security cameras protect their investment while protecting tenants from theft, vandalism, and violent crime.

But, before installing security cameras in apartment buildings, savvy landlords familiarize themselves with California apartment security camera laws governing what property owners can and cannot do with security cameras. 

The following article addresses property owners’ top questions about security camera laws in California.

man installing cctv camera

Can you record someone without their knowledge in California?

Video surveillance recordings of tenants are legal in California. Laws about residential video surveillance permit homeowners to install cameras on their property and utilize them for monitoring purposes, such as overseeing their driveway, garage, and vehicles.

However, before installing cameras, landlords must consider whether the recordings violate a person’s constitutional rights or reasonable expectation of privacy in the recorded area. Landlords should look to California video surveillance laws and local laws for answers. 

For example, California Penal Code §647 offers guidance for apartment security cameras. This law makes it illegal to secretly look through a hole or opening into the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, or the interior of any other area in which the occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This law also makes it illegal to conceal a surveillance camera to secretly videotape and view the body of, or the undergarments worn by, another person without consent.  

Further, if apartment video cameras record sound, it’s essential to note that California does not permit audio recordings unless all parties consent to be recorded. And, even if tenants agree to audio recording in their lease agreements, those recording devices and surveillance equipment cannot be in areas where tenants can reasonably expect privacy.

When configuring your home security cameras, it’s essential to consider two categories in Federal Law: (1) consent regulations and (2) laws concerning the expectation of privacy.

Read: Best Security Cameras for Apartments

Are voice recordings admissible in court in California?

California Penal Code §632 finds that to admit an audio or video recording of a confidential communication in court, the landlord must follow the “two-party” or “all parties” consent rule. Under California law, every party to the private conversation must have permission for the recording to be admitted in court. 

It’s important to note that each case’s specifics can affect a recording’s admissibility. Therefore, consulting with a legal professional for guidance on a particular situation is always advisable.

Is it legal to video-record someone in California?

The California Constitution guarantees the privacy of its citizens in the workplace, schools, government buildings, and other property. Article I, Section I, Declaration of Rights declares landlords violate privacy rights when they install video surveillance in a location or context with a reasonable expectation of privacy.

According to the bill, law enforcement agencies are restricted from utilizing facial recognition technology with body cameras or any other video footage unless they have obtained a warrant permitting such technology.

Apartment security camera laws in California, for example, allow CCTV or an indoor camera near entrances and exits of an apartment building but not inside an apartment. Tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes.

Where can landlords point security cameras?

Apartment security camera laws in California law prohibit recording in any location where tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy. These locations include restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms or private changing areas, and inside an apartment.

Landlords cannot use any hidden camera to monitor a tenant’s private life. A landlord can install a security camera outside an apartment door. However, if the camera angle allows a full view of the apartment when the door opens, it violates the tenant’s right to privacy. A landlord also can install a surveillance camera near a window but cannot position the camera to see through the window.

Shared common areas within the building can have security cameras or a video surveillance system. For instance, landlords can install security cameras in a lobby, gym, pool, shared kitchen, hallways, or storage areas. They also may install security cameras outside the building at entrances and exits so that they can review surveillance footage in case of emergency.

Find outCrime Trends in California

Do I have to post a sign for video surveillance in California?

Though not required, the State of California encourages property owners who use video surveillance to post video surveillance notices around their property. The signage removes the expectation of privacy because the landlord notices that tenants are being recorded using home security cameras.

However, with the California Assembly Bill 1651, the employer needs to post a sign that there are video surveillance cameras for security purposes. To avoid invasion of privacy, any recording device has to comply with legal compliance.

Can I sue someone for recording me without my permission in California?

Each state has its own laws governing the legality of secretly recording a conversation. California’s laws are the toughest in the nation. 

Penal Code §632 makes it illegal to monitor or record confidential communication without all parties’ consent. Without this consent, conversations captured by audio and video violate a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. This rule applies even if someone threatens you or you want to record a workplace conversation. 

Based on California video surveillance laws, individuals who record private conversations without consent or knowledge of the other party face fines of up to $2,500 per violation and up to one year in prison, even if they are on their own property.

They may also face civil liability if the parties involved files a civil suit. Fines in civil liability cases can be up to $3,000 per violation.

Do I need a permit to install a security camera in California?

Most local and county governments require landlords to acquire a permit before installing security monitoring equipment. It is essential to check with municipal and county governments to get specific permitting information and acquire necessary permits before installing a home security camera and indoor cameras.

For more information on safety considerations in certain California cities, you can visit this link to our blog: Most Dangerous Cities in California.

Do I need a license to install security cameras in California?

California requires a State Contractors License to install surveillance equipment on public property. Licensed contractors carry liability insurance and warranty their installations. The California State License Board gives contractors a license number and requires them to display it on all advertisements and wherever the company’s name and logo appear.

Property owners need to check into California apartment security camera laws and follow these laws to the letter. Security cameras and security systems for video monitoring that meet the laws of the land help protect their investment while providing the protection tenants deserve. Apartment security camera systems or home security cameras that do not meet legal requirements open a landlord up to liability.

Click these links if you’re looking for a security camera installer in OaklandSan JoseLos AngelesSan FranciscoSacramentoPomonaSan DiegoOrange CountyStocktonSanta RosaFresnoPalm SpringsConcord, or Bakersfield.

Workplace Surveillance Cameras in California

Workplace Surveillance Cameras in California have increased due to the rise of remote work. To monitor employee productivity, companies have resorted to methods like text, email, phone, GPS tracking, and even monitoring social media.

To safeguard any person’s privacy, especially California citizens in workplaces, a recent enactment, California Assembly Bill 1651, effective April 18, 2022, imposes strict rules on all employers, regardless of size.

Even on private property, employees now have the right to know and review what the employer records- phone calls, video, and audio recordings. Also, it forbids video recording in private areas like restrooms and locker rooms.

Employers must post signs in surveillance zones, and violations may lead to penalties ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. Workers also gain the right to seek damages for privacy breaches.

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