The issue of intellectual property and an individual’s right to privacy has become a greater concern since more and more people conduct their lives online—whether for banking, social media or dating. While the aforementioned generally have security features encrypted in programming platforms, there remain justified concerns as to what is actually protected. This heightened sense of scrutiny results in ancillary privacy concerns, especially for those living in community associations.
Whether it is the installation of security cameras, insider criminal activity or environmental health concerns, both boards and residents have to be aware of state laws and governing documents. Cases of privacy intrusion happen from coast to coast. Last year, for example, a Florida family living in a penthouse suite sued its condominium association for cell phone towers that were installed on their roof without permission causing loud noises and health risks. In Hawaii, a security guard was arrested for copying residents’ keys and stealing credit card and banking information.
“Giving a general overview of the security measures, data or physical, of a property so residents know there are safeguards in place to protect them should help ease concerns,” says Sean Jordan, CMCA, AMS, vice president and portfolio manager for the Canton, Massachusetts-based The Niles Company. “You are trusted with managing people’s homes; trust in your management team and board members is essential.”
Under Massachusetts General Laws, according to the Massachusetts Privacy Act, M.G.L. c.214, section 1B, “a person shall have a right against unreasonable, substantial or serious interference with his privacy.” Clive Martin, an attorney with the Boston-based law firm of Robinson & Cole says, “There are also federal and state electronic records laws, health privacy laws, laws regulating what information may be released by the government and by employers and laws regarding the unauthorized use of a person’s name or image,” he adds. “These all control different aspects of personal privacy.”
For a board, a grey area exists with regard to privacy when forming (or amending) governing documents such as determining access to units. “There aren’t condominium- or co-op-specific statutes with addressing privacy for multi-family dwellings. Obviously an association is bound to follow the procedures put forth in their documents, which might include special times when the association has access to a unit or a certain amount of notice that must be given in advance,” says Attorney Gary Daddario, a partner in the Westford, Massachusetts-based law firm of Perkins & Anctil, P.C. “When it comes to privacy issues, the co-ops and the condos are looking at the same statutory provisions used for any other type of property.”