Security Camera Laws in Washington State: All You Need To Know

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 ensure that your property is always protected and monitored.

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 in Washington State without reading through a mound of legal documents before finally deciding whether you will or will not get a security system installed.

Everything About Security Camera Laws in Washington State

Washington State follows strict privacy laws under RCW 9.73.030, making it a two-party consent state. Recording conversations without the consent of all involved parties is illegal.

To record conversations legally, at least one participant must announce their intention to record and include it in the recording, following RCW 9.73.030. Exceptions exist for emergency, threat, anonymous, or inconvenient situations where one-party or a person consent suffices.

Employers in Washington must establish clear policies for retention and access, ensuring only authorized personnel have access for legal purposes.

Transparency is vital, and recordings must not violate employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. If your workplace is unionized, engage in negotiations before installing recording devices.

Washington state map, security cameras.

Is it legal to record on security cameras in Washington State?

Based on law enforcement agencies, recording on security cameras in Washington state is legal. 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 essential to note that a verified response is required for most counties before they respond to an alarm. A verified response means that the police agency needs proof that the alarm occurring is not false before they respond. Additionally, most counties will issue fines if you have too many false alarms.

Video & Audio Surveillance Laws in Washington State

In Washington, most counties and municipalities have 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: 

However, if consent is obtained from an involved person with wire communications or conversations related to threats, it can be legal.

Residential video cameras tips.

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: avoid the audio component. While most newer security cameras record audio and video, it is generally legal to film areas that are viewable to the public.

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.

Because of Washington privacy laws, recorded communications using an audio recording device are illegal, while recorded footage should be of a reasonable expectation of privacy of parties involved.

Washington state protects and honors a private conversation, so video recording with audio components can result in criminal offense. Communication should be private when parties involved manifest a subjective intention that it should be private.

In addition, specific regulations such as installing security cameras in private areas such as bedrooms and changing rooms are illegal, and a tenant can pursue legal action.

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 reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, based on Washington Law, it is a criminal act. It can invade individual privacy rights if you install security surveillance with audio recording because it can record private conversations.

Can I install security cameras on my rental property?

Yes, you can install security cameras on your rental property as the property owner. Unfortunately, this one gets complicated since there is no definitive legal framework to justify landlords’ legality in installing security cameras on rental properties.

However, as the landlord, you can justify installing security cameras to protect your property and ensure the safety of your tenants. Also, they have to submit legal requirements and comply with security camera installation and video monitoring laws.

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.

You can install video surveillance and video record devices (security camera) on common spaces to prevent theft, property damage, and remaining unlawfully on a property.

It is 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.

Conclusion

Washington is a beautiful state, and most residents would tell you 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 a community’s or property’s safety. However, if a homeowner isn’t cautious, using a security camera and the film it captures 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 a professional security provider to get the optimal security system for your residence.

Click this link if you’re looking for a security camera installer in Seattle.

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