Today’s economic conditions are perfect for investing in rental properties. While becoming a landlord offers a ton of financial benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks you’ll want to avoid.
Perhaps one of the worst things that can happen as a landlord is getting stuck with nightmare tenants. These people can refuse to pay their rent, or even worse, cause expensive damage to your property!
You might think that adding some surveillance cameras will help you keep your property safe, but you have to do it right. Keep reading to learn about the most important apartment security camera laws you’ll need to follow.
Apartment Security Laws for Property Owners
First things first. Although we’re discussing apartment security camera laws, the following information applies to all types of rental properties. Whether you’re purchasing a condo, apartment building, or single-family home to rent out, you’ll need to follow the same laws regarding the use of surveillance cameras.
To answer the question that’s certainly on the top of your mind, yes, you can install security cameras on your rental property. The laws vary from state to state, so you’ll definitely want to check on your specific state’s laws before moving forward. However, there are some important points that apply across the board.
In most states, it’s illegal to install surveillance cameras anywhere that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This means you’ll need to keep cameras out of places like bathrooms, bedrooms, and anywhere a person might get undressed.
Many states will take this a step further and say that tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside their homes. To avoid breaking any laws, you should not install cameras anywhere inside.
You can, however, install cameras to monitor activities in the outdoor areas including the front and back door, driveway, back yard, and garage. Essentially, any space that could be considered “public” can be monitored.
Any cameras you install must be visible, as it’s illegal to install hidden or “spy” cameras anywhere on private property. You must also notify your tenant that the cameras are in use. It’s a good idea to add this clause to your lease or rental agreement, so there’s no question about whether you’ve informed them.
Since most video surveillance systems now also have audio, this creates another legal concern. Under Federal wiretapping laws, it is illegal to record someone without their knowledge and consent.
In many states, as long as you inform your tenants that both audio and video recording is taking place, you should be okay. If the tenants then elect to have a conversation in front of the cameras, it’s usually considered consent. In other states, you must have the consent of all parties involved, or you’ve broken the law.
To avoid any potential legal issues, it’s smart to just choose a system that doesn’t have an audio recording. If you’re not happy with this option, then you’ll definitely want to check your state laws in detail before installing cameras that record both video and audio.
Apartment Security Camera Laws for Tenants
Another question that’s common among landlords is whether it’s legal for tenants to install cameras in the property they’re renting from you. In general, tenants are allowed the use of the outside of their buildings and can install cameras as long as the installation doesn’t cause any damage to the building itself.
A WiFi camera system that doesn’t require any drilling or wiring is acceptable, as long as the installation doesn’t impact the expectation of privacy for neighbors or roommates. However, if the tenant wants to install a hard-wired system, purchase security cameras that are professionally installed, or contract with an alarm service, they’ll need your permission first.
Security Camera Tips and Tricks
If you are going to install security cameras on your rental property, you might as well do it right. Consider the following tips.
1. Plan Ahead
Before you get started, you need to evaluate your property. Decide what kind of system will work best for the space you need to monitor.
Decide if you want a WiFi or hard-wired system and how many cameras you’ll need. Systems like the Honeywell Vista 20P are scalable and work for most property types.
Also, take some time to decide what areas you want to monitor and determine the proper camera positioning. This will help ensure the system works the way you want it to once it’s installed.
2. Follow Installation Best Practices
When installing your cameras, avoid backlighting and lens flare. This can make your images useless!
Make sure you install the cameras so they are out of reach, otherwise it’s too easy to tamper with or disable them. On the other hand, you’ll also want to ensure that they’re not so high up that it’s impossible to get a clear image.
If you’re using WiFi cameras, always check the WiFi strength.
3. It’s also a good idea to periodically check the video quality, just to ensure that nothing has changed.
Following these tips will help keep both your property and your tenants safe and secure.