Growing concerns for individual safety, as well increased access to high quality, low cost security cameras is having an impact on Condominium Associations throughout New Jersey. Some Unit Owners are asking their Associations to install cameras in common areas, while others simply wish to install their own cameras around their individual units. Many Associations and their Boards are finding themselves in a position where they must decide whether to allow Unit Owners to install personal security cameras; with little guidance as to what course of action is the best.
Typically, an association may not limit a Unit Owner’s right to install a security camera inside their Unit if it is not mounted on or intruding into the common elements. However, there are concerns about allowing cameras to be placed outside an individual unit. Associations generally have provisions in their governing documents authorizing them to regulate what Unit Owners can and cannot install on the unit’s exterior walls and roof, which are often classified as common elements. These provisions often require the Unit Owner to ask permission before installing surveillance cameras. It is advisable that Associations to adopt a written policy pertaining to the private installation of security cameras by Unit Owners.
When developing a policy regarding private security cameras, Associations should consider multiple factors - including aesthetics, privacy, and security. After all, Condominium Associations generally have policies regulating the exterior of buildings in order to maintain uniformity. Some Associations choose an outright ban on installation of any security cameras by unit owners on common property. If an Association does allow for cameras to be installed, the Board may wish to implement restrictions on the size and placement of such cameras.
Privacy is another concern. If an Association allows one Unit Owner to install a camera that is able to record another Unit Owner’s private property, the Association may find itself in the middle of a dispute between Unit Owners. Recently, a case involving the placement of security cameras was brought before the New Jersey Appellate Court. Fortunately for the Association, the cameras were removed by the unit owner before the appeal and the Court therefore did not issue any ruling relating to this matter.
Finally, there is the issue of security. Often times Unit Owners who ask to install private security cameras are doing so in response to recent crime activity or vandalism in the community or surrounding area. In such instances, an Association may be tempted to allow installation in order to avoid appearing unconcerned for residents’ safety. However, if the association begins allowing cameras to be installed on the common and limited common elements, there may become an assumption that the Association will maintain the cameras. Also, this may give rise to the assumption of increased protection by the Association since cameras are being installed. Associations and their Boards will not want owners believing that the Association is implicitly providing for increased security within the community if this is not actually the case.
Ultimately, individual Associations must make their own determination as to whether to allow Unit Owners to install private security cameras and if so, how to regulate their placement, installation, and usage.
The information in this Client Alert is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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