Surveillance Cameras and HOAs: What residents need to know

By Kelly Richardson
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Our board refuses to circulate images captured on surveillance cameras of trespassers who hop locked pedestrian gates or tailgate cars to get into the garage. Many of us want these images in case we see the intruders or their vehicles in the future. Can the board appoint a volunteer committee of residents to review the surveillance videos, with the committee deciding whether to circulate the images to residents?

As the affordability and technical quality of surveillance increases, cameras are increasingly considered by associations. However, cameras are not an answer to all association problems and can create more problems.

For example, placing a camera only to surveil a single resident will almost certainly offend the resident and create a possible claim of privacy invasion. If surveillance is not for the entire community, perhaps there are other ways to deal with the problem resident.

Recording devices could record private conversations without the parties’ consent and violate the law, so stick with just video and skip audio.

Secret surveillance is a bad idea, so signs should always be posted, alerting people in a given area that recorded surveillance is present. I am often asked if the association can post such signs but install dummy cameras. A dummy camera could lead residents to a false sense of security if they were facing danger and erroneously stayed within “view” of a phony camera.

Individual owners in planned developments or detached condominiums sometimes wish to install their own cameras. A reasonable written rule is a good idea, requiring cameras not point into neighboring windows or adjoining yards.

If the association has recorded video monitoring, the privacy interests of all residents are best protected by prohibiting residents’ or owners’ access to the recordings. I often draft policies providing access only to the manager, security company, and law enforcement. A certain director or committee chair will occasionally take too much an interest in watching their neighbors on recorded videos. A reasonable policy, keeping the recordings private, helps assure residents that their privacy is protected and respected.

If your association has a history of problems in the common area or garages, the board might be required to take reasonable steps to increase the security of those areas, and cameras might be one such step.

Boards may want to consult with their local law enforcement, security vendor, manager, and legal counsel before installing cameras. explores questions and comments from community association members living in condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives. We then assemble trusted experts to provide practical solutions to your most commonly asked, timely questions. We never use real names, but we always tackle real issues. Have a question or comment about your community association? Submit here for consideration:

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Kelly Richardson

Kelly G. Richardson is a senior partner with Richardson | Ober law firm, serving California common-interest communities. He is a CAI past president and a fellow in CAI's College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL).