QUESTION: I was chairman of our security committee. Only myself and my backup had access to the security camera system. This was to ensure the privacy of our tenants. The president demanded that I give access to board members stating that they have a right to see all HOA records. I refused stating privacy issues. The president removed me from the security committee. Are security camera recordings considered "records"? Does the board have the right to view them?
ANSWER: Yes, security camera recordings qualify as "records" and board members have a right to review them. (Corp. Code §8334.) Their status as records makes them discoverable in litigation, the same as other digital data such as documents, sound recordings, photographs, emails, etc.
Owner Access. The right to review is not the same for homeowners. Video surveillance recordings are not included in the list of records authorized by the Davis-Stirling Act for members to review. Even so, boards can make them available if they so choose.
Full Access. Smaller associations sometimes stream their security feeds and give all owners a password so they can log in from their computers or phones and monitor the cameras in real time. It gives extra sets of eyes on the common areas.
Limited Access. Most associations will provide only limited access to members. There are times when a member would have a legitimate reason to review a particular recording. For example, an owner's car is vandalized and she wants to view footage that would show who caused the damage.
Records Storage. Digital images are generally stored for 30 days and then automatically erased to provide room for more images. The storage time is sometimes set for shorter periods (2-weeks, 10-days, 48 hours) depending on the amount of memory available and the number of camera feeds.
Privacy Concerns. In California, associations can lawfully install video surveillance cameras in the common areas provided they are not viewing areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as restrooms, locker rooms, or the interior of an owner’s unit. (Penal Code §647(j).)
Recommendation: Boards should adopt guidelines for how security camera data are stored, for what period of time, under what circumstances recordings may be viewed, and by whom.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.