Surveillance and the Law Maintaining Safety While Respecting Privacy

Secure.  The word has many meanings.  According to Google definitions, it can mean “to fix or attach something to something else.  It can mean to protect against threats or make safe. Or it can mean to feel free from fear or anxiety.” Perhaps that feeling of security is the single most important thing we can to feel in our homes.

Security is a major issue for condominium communities today. The choice to buy into a condominium or other multifamily community overseen by an HOA rather than a private home may even be based on the desire of the purchaser to have peace of mind that security concerns are being addressed on a community-wide basis.  According to an article that appeared in CONDO.ca on-line, “Security was the number-one concern among people looking to purchase a condominium.” 

The state of surveillance and security has come a long way over the past few decades. Where security issues used to rest on the employment of security personnel and perimeter fencing, today’s security arrangements are more hi-tech and complex. Along with technology has come an uptick in both legislation and litigation — much of it arising at the intersection of legitimate security concerns with equally legitimate concerns about propriety and privacy.

Walking a High Wire

While board members of condominium associations and HOAs are just as concerned with their security as the their fellow condominium members, they have to balance the legal issues that govern both the successful security apparatus of the community and the potential liabilities of the association.  

“As a general rule, anyone can video [record] anyone else in a public space, no consent required,” says Scott Piekarsky, a partner at Piekarsky & Associates, a law firm located in Wyckoff.  “It is legal to install cameras in all common areas where homeowners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.”  Interestingly, Piekarsky adds, “New Jersey law prohibits the videotaping and recording of another person, ‘whose intimate parts are exposed, or who is engaged in an act of...sexual contact without that person’s consent…unless sufficient notice was posted and the surveillance is for a lawful purpose.’”  

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