Legal Issues Arising Out of Use of Security Cameras

Legal Issues Arising Out of Use of Security Cameras


Many homeowners are using security cameras to enhance the security of their property.  Cameras may be located on the interior or exterior of the property.  Some cameras are solely visual, while others pick up sound.  Legal issues have arisen relating to the use of these cameras.  For example, a buyer buying a home may make a derogatory comment about the home to their real estate agent, which is picked up by the security camera and subsequently, heard by the sellers.  When the sellers express anxiety or anger, buyers have been raising issues relating to their rights of privacy.  Alternatively, landlords who place security cameras in their homes or on the exterior, have faced claims by tenants for an invasion of privacy. 


The United States and California Constitutions guaranty a limited right of privacy to its citizens.  However, whether a privacy violation occurs is based on multiple factors.  For example, a claimant must possess a "legally protected privacy right."  The claimant must have an expectation of reasonable privacy.  The claimant must show that the intrusion was serious in its nature, scope and potential impact and the homeowner must show that the conduct is justified. 


In the instance of a buyer making a comment inside a home, which is picked up by a security camera, arguably, there is no right of privacy, as there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, given that the buyer is in someone else's home.  However, security cameras at rental properties could be of concern.  For example, security cameras in a front yard where the area is reasonably viewable by the public or neighborhood, would likely not constitute an invasion of privacy.  However, a security camera inside the home or in a private backyard, could constitute an invasion of privacy.


It is recommended that if homeowners are using security cameras, it is disclosed to invitees.  If homes are on the market and have operating security cameras, listing agents should consider noting it in the Multiple Listing Service.  Security cameras in homes for rent, should provide a provision in the lease disclosing the existence of the security cameras and a waiver of potential liability. 


Shannon B. Jones, Partner