QUESTION: Can associations install surveillance cameras? Doesn't it violate our privacy as owners?
ANSWER: In California, associations can lawfully install video surveillance cameras in the common areas so long as 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).)
Audio Surveillance. The principles applied to visual surveillance do not carry over to audio surveillance. Individuals have an expectation of privacy when it comes to conversation--they can lower their voices or stop speaking when they see someone approaching. Parties to a confidential communication must give permission to be recorded. (Penal Code § 632.) The exception is if participants could reasonably expect to be overheard or recorded. (Penal Code § 632(c).)
Posting Signs. There is no law requiring an association (or anyone who posts video surveillance cameras in public spaces) to post signs, give notice or to obtain prior consent to film areas where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. However, posting signs informing homeowners and other persons that the area is under surveillance may help increase the cameras’ deterrent effects and lower the likelihood of a claim that a person had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.