Surveillance cameras are quickly becoming standard among homeowners associations (HOA’s). When used and maintained properly the cameras serve two purposes. If they are openly visible to people entering your community, they will serve as a deterrent to criminal activity and they will also provide evidence to law enforcement for catching and convicting the vandals and other criminals.
It is generally acceptable for your homeowners association (HOA) to install surveillance cameras anywhere on HOA-owned common property except in places where residents would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms and club house locker rooms. There is no law that requires HOAs to post signs advising residents and visitors that the property is under surveillance, but it is a good idea. The signs let the residents know the playing field and may enhance the deterrent effect of would be criminals. The board should communicate to the residents that the cameras are solely for deterrence and evidence-gathering, and that the cameras have not been installed to provide any guarantee of protection, safety or security.
Are Dummy Cameras Ok?
Dummy cameras are strongly opposed by both security and legal experts. Although dummy cameras may provide some deterrent, they also give residents the false impression that video is being captured for security purposes. It is important to note that broken or inoperable cameras are viewed as dummy cameras and should be maintained and in operation at all times. Dummy and inoperable cameras leave your HOA liable for a negligence lawsuit when an event occurs and video is not captured.
The cost of settling a negligent security claim averages between $500,000 and $600,000, according to some industry estimates; the average jury award to plaintiffs who allege security breaches by property owners is more than $1 million; and the cost of just defending these claims is $100,000 (Brady, n.d.)
Approving Residents for Home Security Upgrades
While a board is not responsible for making security upgrades to homes, they should approve all reasonable requests from residents. The commonly cited California case (Frances T. v. Village Green H.O. Association) emphasizes the importance of following this advice.
The plaintiff homeowner, concerned about a rash of burglaries and thefts in the area, asked the board repeatedly for permission to install additional lighting near her unit. The board had been discussing security concerns for several months, but hadn’t acted on them and didn’t respond to this owner’s request, so she installed the lighting on her own. That drew an immediate response from the board, which ordered the owner to remove the unauthorized lighting and rejected her request to leave it in place until the board could propose an alternative.
The owner complied, but because her supplemental lights were wired into the same circuit as the association’s existing lighting (which the owner felt was inadequate), disconnecting the owner’s lights left the area without any lighting at all. Shortly after that, the owner was raped in this darkened area, and a court found the association as an entity and the board members individually to have been negligent and liable for damages as a result. (Brady, n.d.).
Brady, P. (n.d.). Security Concerns Are Understandable but a Community Association’s Obligations Are Limited. Retrieved from https://www.caionline.org/