Q: Our condominium association is fairly empty during the summer months because most residents spend the summer up north. As a security measure, we want to install a security camera facing the common areas so that residents can view the camera up north and to monitor the property. Can we do this?
H.R., Delray Beach
A: There are two main issues here. The first issue is whether the security camera violates a privacy interest held by owners and their guests. Generally, individuals have a low expectation of privacy when they are in public areas. Here, it also holds true that residents and guests have a low expectation of privacy when walking through the common areas. I generally advise clients that cameras do not breach a privacy expectation so long as they serve a valid purpose and are not intrusive by pointing into bedrooms or living rooms.
Second, arbitration cases have determined that cameras constitute a material alteration. As a basic level, if the condominium wall was previously painted stucco, and now there is a mounted security camera, the function and purpose of the space is now fundamentally and visually different. As you may know, the general rule is that material alterations may not be carried out by the Board without membership approval. The statutory default threshold is 75% of the unit owners but your condominium documents may prescribe a lower threshold.
We also know that security cameras may be exempt from this approval requirement when the Association can demonstrate an actual need based on the community’s history. In other words, membership approval is likely not necessary when the community has recently suffered break-ins or physical violence in the common areas, but membership approval is likely necessary when the community has historically been safe, and the cameras are just a precaution.
Ultimately, security cameras are possible and are frequently installed based on the above analysis, but I would recommend you consult with your legal counsel to discuss your individual situation.
Steven J. Adamczyk Esq., is a shareholder of the law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC. T o ask Mr. Adamczyk questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.