Taking The Lead

In Florida Condo And Homeowner Association, Real Estate, And Business Law


On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2016 | Condo / HOA, Firm News |


It is legal for your condominium association to install surveillance cameras anywhere on common property, except in places where residents would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as the clubhouse locker rooms. In looking at the images you provided from the 3 cameras, those are definitely common areas and there is no privacy issue with the cameras themselves.

The other question is, who is entitled to view the recorded footage? First, if anyone other than board members and your property manager have access to the web cam footage, I believe such access should serve a legitimate association purpose. While I understand that the camera footage may be of general interest to many owners, I think the board needs to ask itself: What is the association gaining by allowing owners to have access to these 3 video feeds? In my experience, the only legitimate reason for an association to have gated access or other security measures is for the control of access. Once associations start promoting these measures as a guaranty of additional protection, safety or security, the liability for the association skyrockets when there is a criminal incident.

I am concerned that the owner access could be creating unintended liability for the association for two reasons. First, if an owner happens to observe a criminal trespass or other suspicious activity, what can he or she do about it? The owner does not have authority to act for the association and may feel compelled to do so if an incident or intrusion is witnessed on the video feed. We do not want a homeowner going to the scene of a criminal intrusion attempting to intervene and save the day as “association security”. Second, what if a vigilant owner sees something and attempts to report it to the association? Even if the association responded diligently, there could always be an argument that the association did not act fast enough and was negligent in the use of the video footage.

We need to remember that condo and homeowners’ associations are not set up or organized to ensure security, and I am concerned that the unrestricted access to the video footage is promoting the association and community as a “highly secure” place. Therefore, I think your board would be wise to limit the distribution of video footage to law-enforcement personnel investigating a crime, and to others who can either produce a subpoena or articulate a compelling and legitimate reason for needing it.

The other reason for restricting access to only the board and its management is that video footage from the cameras would likely be covered by Chapter 718.111 regarding members’ right of access to official records. Security-camera footage is not listed in the statute as one of the records that members are legally entitled to inspect. Therefore, I think it is possible that an angry owner could report this practice to the Division of Condominiums as an inappropriate attempt to provide members with records they shouldn’t have.

If your board is looking to strengthen access-control measures and avoid the liabilities discussed above, I have a few suggestions:

First, you could post signs at the boating facilities and at the entrance gate advising residents and visitors that the property is under video surveillance, which will likely enhance the deterrent effect.

Second, the board could appoint an “access control committee” (not a “security” committee) and give those trusted individuals (maybe 5 to 7 people) secure access to all video footage. This will put more sets of eyes on the footage without creating unintended liability.

Third, regardless of who ends up having access to the footage, the board should communicate to the residents that the cameras are solely for deterrence, access control and evidence-gathering, and that the cameras have not been installed to provide any guarantee of protection, safety or security.