Q: My neighbor has installed cameras on the outside of his home. It is probably intended to record the front door, but it appears that the camera is sometimes facing the street and even other homes. Is this legal?
-A.P., Marco Island
A: The answer to this question depends on a) the particular covenants concerning cameras; and b) the expectation of privacy of neighbors and other residents.
First, your homeowners association covenants may address cameras. Either the Declaration may address cameras or your architectural guidelines. The documents may prohibit cameras altogether or may require that they be placed on certain portions of the property or face a specific direction. If the neighbor is violating the written covenants, then the Association may have enforcement authority to compel compliance with the written guidelines on cameras.
In addition, the question also requires a discussion of privacy rights. If the camera is facing the community common areas, or a public sidewalk, it is not an invasion of privacy because neither homeowners nor the public have an expectation of privacy when they are voluntarily walking or traversing in a public area. If the cameras are pointing into neighboring bedroom or living room, that is an entirely different story. You do have an expectation of privacy in your bedroom and neighbors should not be able to record from a private camera.
You may also consider contacting the local sheriff’s department if you believe the camera is intentionally being used to record private spaces.