Security cameras are becoming increasingly popular in communities throughout the world. Whether it’s a tiny doorbell camera to help catch porch pirates or an outdoor security camera connected to the cloud, these devices are becoming easier to install and cheaper to purchase. Homeowners' associations (HOAs) are looking at security cameras to deter crime and monitor common areas. But, before your board installs a new neighborhood camera, there are some essential things to consider. Below is all the important information your HOA needs to know about installing and using security cameras in your community.
Find Out Your HOA's Rules on Cameras
The first and most important step your board should take is searching through the governing documents for any rules or regulations regarding camera use. These community documents will help inform what is or is not possible moving forward. If there are any questions, you should consult with your community association manager (CAM) or your HOA lawyer for details.
Look into Local, State, & Federal Laws
Additionally, there may be local, state, or federal laws that will impact how and where your board can install cameras. The generally accepted law on camera usage emphasizes that everyone has a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. What this means for your board is that you’ll likely be able to record in public areas, but it’d be unacceptable to point a camera at any indoor or privately-owned spaces. Again, when in doubt, always consult with your CAM or community lawyer.
Craft a Policy That Protects Your Community
After you’ve done your due diligence to follow all the rules and guidelines for camera use as it pertains to your community, it may be a good idea to craft specific policies that your HOA can start to follow. Set clear expectations for homeowners of where the cameras can be placed, how the footage will be stored, and who will be allowed to view it. Likewise, work with your board to establish a budget to support your efforts. Two of the most important things to keep in mind for your community camera policy are how the cameras will look and what will be done to protect resident's privacy.
Cameras can quickly become an eyesore. Plan carefully for your security camera installation and make sure they won’t negatively affect the aesthetics of your neighborhood. Likewise, consider possible weather conditions for outside cameras, and use hardware that’ll look good and stand up to the elements.
Always remember homeowners have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their community. Make sure cameras are never pointed into backyards, windows, or other areas that are considered private. Do your best to keep any saved video protected and have clear rules of who can access any files. Also, set standards for how long footage will be stored, and how it'll be deleted after an appropriate amount of time.
Budget for On-Going Expenses
When planning and budgeting for your security cameras, keep in mind that there can be ongoing expenses. Be sure to plan for these, including:
- Video storage
- Upgrading hardware and software
- Additional cameras for growing communities
8 Tips on Security Cameras From a Community Expert
Julian White is a Business Development Manager at Associa Tennessee and has helped solve countless community issues, including when and how to install security cameras. He wants every HOA contemplating security cameras to keep these eight crucial tips in mind.
- Unless written in the governing documents or state legislation, the board isn’t required to install security cameras.
- Only the HOA is permitted to install a camera in the common areas, or in a place that’ll record the common area.
- If the board is looking to install cameras, they should consult their community attorney, CAM, and insurance agent to weigh the pros and cons.
- There needs to be a policy of who will review the footage and how often (daily, weekly, after an occurrence, etc.).
- Homeowners need to be made aware of the camera policy. You can do this by posting it in the clubhouse, on a community message board, or through a community app like TownSq.
- Footage from the security cameras should never be stored or accessed on a personal computer, including board members.
- No one person outside of law enforcement should review the footage in private.
- Recordings should be kept in congruence with the state's statute of limitations for personal injury claims.
Get More HOA Safety & Security Tips
Want more expert advice to keep your community safe and secure? Check out our post, "5 Ways to Effectively Curb Crime in Your Community."