Surveillance and the Law Maintaining Safety While Respecting Privacy

Secure.  The word has many meanings.  According to Google definitions it can mean “to fix or attach something to something else.  It can mean to protect against threats or make safe.  Or it can mean to feel free from fear or anxiety.”  Perhaps that feeling of security is the single most important thing we can to feel in our homes.

Security is a major issue for condominium communities today.  The choice of a condominium or other communities overseen by HOAs may be made over a private home based on the desire of the potential purchaser for additional security or to have peace of mind that security concerns are being addressed on a community-wide basis.  An article that appeared in CONDO.ca on-line states that “security was the number 1 concern among people looking to purchase a condominium.” 

The state of surveillance and security has come a long way over the past few decades.  Where security issues used to rest on the employment of security personnel and perimeter fencing, today’s security arrangements are more hi-tech and complex.  Along with technology, has come litigation and legislation.

Walking a High Wire

While board members of condominium associations and HOAs are as concerned with their security as the rest of their fellow condominium members, they have to balance the legal issues that govern both the successful security apparatus of the community and the potential liabilities of the association.  

“The right to privacy has to be respected,” says Frank Flynn, an attorney and principal with the Flynn Law Group in Boston, Massachusetts.  Privacy rights are defined on a state by state basis.  “In Massachusetts,” Flynn explains, “the right to privacy is defined as an expectation of privacy in an apartment or condominium unit.”  In addition to privacy laws there are federal eavesdropping statutes that must be taken into account when considering a surveillance system.  “Under federal wiretapping laws, the condominium association would be in violation if they recorded somebody’s voice without their consent.  But they can video the common areas and that can be done surreptitiously, provided they don’t record sound, silent movies only.”  Regardless, Flynn suggests that condominium trusts should also consult their attorneys about what state law requires.     

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