By Excel Sheppard Insurance Service and Risk Management
When searching for a new home, prospective condo owners are attracted to communities with active security programs. In order to deter crime and provide homeowners with a sense of safety, many condominium corporations utilize surveillance cameras as part of this security strategy.
On the surface, installing security cameras on your property may seem beneficial. However, depending on how you gather security footage and what you do with that
footage later on, you may end up creating problems instead of preventing them.
A Condominium had installed numerous security cameras at all entrances and exits of its building, in the parking garage, and in the pool and fitness areas. Although these cameras were originally installed for security purposes, such as preventing safety hazards, theft, break-ins and vandalism, the condominium also used the footage to punish residents for smoking or drinking in prohibited areas and for allowing their dogs in restricted areas. After residents complained and the matter was taken before the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the condo corporation was found non-compliant with the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) regarding the use of its security cameras. It was determined that the condo corporation did not use the cameras appropriately, and they were ordered to do the following:
- Post signs on the property stating that video surveillance was taking place
- Notify residents of who can access the security footage
- Remove the security cameras in the pool and fitness areas unless theft or damage to property becomes an issue in those areas
- Stop using footage to enforce the condo’s bylaws
- Stop providing a live feed of security camera footage to all residents
- Stop daily viewing of security camera footage when there are no current security complaints
Rules governing condo corporations in Canada vary by province, so corporations need to refer to local laws and use their best judgment when implementing security cameras. However, here are some general tips for responsible security camera use:
- Determine the appropriate setting for security cameras. It is not appropriate to install cameras in areas where residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as pool areas, locker rooms, bathrooms and in areas where the camera may be able to see into a resident’s unit.
- Determine who will view security footage, and let residents know. Many condo corporations allow a live feed of certain security cameras to be viewed, either by security personnel, board members or even by all residents. However, this could potentially infringe on homeowners’ privacy rights and lead to misuse of information if other residents are allowed to view a live feed of everyone’s comings and goings. For this reason, it is best to leave this responsibility to security personnel who are specifically hired to do this job.
- Create a policy for monitoring the live video feed. Monitoring the activity of your residents on a live feed for 24 hours a day would probably be considered an inappropriate use of security footage. At certain times, such as late in the evening into the early morning hours, it may be wise to set security personnel up with live feeds of the entrances and exits of your building for security purposes. But
unless you have instances of theft, vandalism, break-ins, etc., you should not have security personnel watching every security camera that is set up in your building during all hours of the day.
- Notify residents that video surveillance is taking place. Although provincial law differs on this requirement, posted signs can further deter criminal activity. Even if a criminal does not see security cameras, they will most likely spot signs that the cameras are in use, and it may make him or her think twice about committing a crime.