Surveillance Equipment in Your Building

Good Security, Or Big Brother?

By Lucas A. Ferrara, Esq.

Article Options

For decades, the most desirable residential buildings were those with visible security systems, liveried door staffs, concierges, elevator operators, keyless locks, state-of-the-art intercom systems and video cameras. Over the course of the last five years, as our war on terrorism has unfolded, these additional security measures have become the norm for all residential structures, and are no longer strictly the domain of high-end complexes.

And although these protections may be the order of the day, there is a question as to the point at which these systems may become invasive. Ostensibly, cooperative corporations, condominium associations and rental-property owners are implementing security measures in order to safeguard the life, safety and wellbeing of all building occupants or residents. That aside, it's not hard to imagine a tenant construing a camera in a common-area hallway or elevator as comprising an "invasion of privacy" or even a form of "harassment."

The general rule is that law-abiding citizens are entitled to use and enjoy their homes without unreasonable interference or annoyance. Reinforcing this point are provisions found in residential leases, which typically provide that tenants are entitled to "exclusive control" of their space upon taking possession of an apartment. That right typically extends against a landlord's entry into the unit absent prior notice, tenant consent, a legitimate repair need or bona fide emergency. An unauthorized or illegal entry by an owner, property manager, cooperative/condominium board member or other agent or representative may trigger an array of rights and remedies. With regulated tenants, such activity may constitute "harassment" as defined by Rent Stabilization Code § 2525.5. This provision provides that owners may not engage in "any course of conduct--which interferes with, or disturbs, or is intended to interfere with or disturb, the privacy, comfort, peace, repose or quiet enjoyment of the tenant in his or her use or occupancy of the housing accommodation."

Public vs. Private

However, notwithstanding the available legal protections, the well-established rule is that individuals retain a reasonable expectation of privacy within private areas of living space--not necessarily in public spaces, such as the common areas of residential buildings. These are generally defined by New York courts as "hallways, lobbies, vestibules, public telephone booths, stairwells and any other areas used for ingress and egress where access is relatively uncontrolled."

Therefore, high-tech surveillance cameras and other security systems may be lawfully installed in public--or common--areas of residential and commercial buildings. Of the few reported cases on the subject, those tenants who have litigated the issue and objected on "privacy" grounds have thus far met with little success, particularly when these security measures were found to enhance safety and represent a form of improvement to the property. Similarly, a breach of the Warranty of Habitability is not triggered by security-related measures, since such a breach can only occur when a reasonable person would conclude that some defect in a dwelling has deprived a tenant of "those essential functions which a residence is expected to provide."

Worth a Thousand Words

Many are unaware that in New York State, there are surprisingly few restrictions on the use of a person's "name, portrait or picture," unless such use is commercially or fraudulently exploitive. New York Civil Rights Laws §§ 50 and 51 create a "right of privacy" and a "right of publicity," making it a misdemeanor offense to use an individual's name, portrait or picture for advertising or trade purposes without consent. But there is no corresponding New York law that extends a right of privacy to "non-fraudulent" and "non-commercial" use of one's picture or portrait. Therefore, surveillance in building common areas does not violate any "privacy right" currently recognized by New York law.

Even law enforcement's surveillance of the common areas in residential buildings is permitted, and will not invalidate an arrest. The underlying basis for this finding is, again, that residents have no reasonable expectations of privacy in areas that are in joint control of the cooperative corporation, condominium, owner, or tenants and other occupants, and which are publicly accessible. As a result, surveillance of such areas may be undertaken without residents' knowledge--and even over their objections.

Sponsor Ad
NNK is recognized as one of the premier providers of auditing/accounting services to the cooperative and condominium community in the NY metropolitan area. We provide responsive, personalized, quality services to more than 250 residential properties
575 Underhill Blvd., Suite 100, Syosset NY 516-364-0700
www.nnkllp.com

New York's criminal law supports this rationale by defining "public places" to include building "common areas," and Penal Law § 240.00(1) provides that lobbies of apartment houses not constituting private rooms are defined as "public places." Accordingly, New York courts have upheld criminal arrests based on crimes perpetrated and observed in these areas since residents have no legitimate expectation of privacy in places that have "public or substantial group access."

Ultimately, the conflicting concerns underlying common area surveillance will require a careful balancing or weighing of the various parties' interests. And as technology advances, our legislature and courts will be called upon with increasing frequency to address the problems raised by the ever-growing presence and grasp of electronic surveillance.

What remains to be seen is whether increased security measures are Orwellian in nature or simply a reality in our modern times. Until these issues are adjudicated, it is important that we remain vigilant in protecting our security, as well as our individual liberties, and it is of critical importance that we respond aggressively and proactively when either is wrongfully violated.

Lucas A. Ferrara is an attorney with the Manhattan-based law firm of Finkelstein Newman, LLP.

Comments

Shaun Myles

A very, very informative and important document. In my own pre-war 6 floor walk-up rent-stabalized building in the East Village our community has been devastated by a new landlord who bought out the building over a year ago and within months managed to remove two thirds of the original tenants and through gut renovation was able to take those apartments free market. They have now installed an excessive amount of cameras in the building; one to each floor and two floors having two cameras each. Most of these cameras are pointing directly at the doors of tenants who have survived the initial purge by management. They are now bringing a ridiculous and frivolous lawsuit against one of the remaining rent stabilized tenants on the basis of videoed information that they have gathered on him. It has become apparent that the management intends to use this surveillance system to target various individuals within the building. It is therefore upsetting to realize that their instillation of this surveillance system is probably legal. My questions are though; 1. Is there not a legal limit to how many cameras can be installed in a small building before it becomes oppressive and excessive and therefore an invasion of privacy - especially if it can be shown that the material gathered is used for tenant harassment through unnecessary litigation. and 2. If the cameras installed in the building are directly targeted at the door of selected tenants allowing the cameras to look into the apartments of these tenants when there doors are open ie. when they come and go, that this constitutes an invasion of privacy as the cameras are then monitoring the personal space of tenants as opposed to the public spaces of the building. I'd be interested to here additional advice and comments on this situation. Thanks

Arlene P

I resided in an apartment building that rents approximately 40 apartments. At least 90% of all the resides including myself work during the day. Therefore, the building is basically empty between the hours of 8am-6pm. Overall, its a working class community. I have notice that many residence in the building, apartment have been broken into, my apartment was one of them. The management company still has not installed surveillance cameras. Is there anything I could do to have him install camera throughout the building?

an unknown user

I live in New York City and I own a private residence. I want to install a video camera outside my building to watch over my property; especially when I decorate for the holidays. And since my block is very dark at night to watch and see who enters my building. I want to know if it is legal for me to install a camera even f I place a sign that says property under video surviellance?

LEILA

I have a similar situation to Shaun's in that a video camera has been installed directly in front of my door--the only one on the floor-but there is also one in the elevator and lobby. I am undergoing harassment and lease termination based on suspected "non-primary" residency. Anything that I can do?

frank

I am all for security in apartment bldgs.,but there seems to be the question of privacy,which I am concern about.The bldg. I live in has about 40 apartments,half condos half rent control apartments.They just recently put cameras in the bldg.I can see them putting cameras in common areas,but they put cameras on every floor,as many as 3,.They are set up so they can see who is going in to the apartments on eachfloor.Isn't this an evasion of privacy.Do landlords have the right to scan tenents visitors?These cameras don't look into the apartments but are able see who is going in & out.Like I said I am all for security but how far should it go!!

Candy

is there a law against a tenant using a video camera in the common hallway. If so what can i legally do.

GREGORIO NYC NY

CAN A SUPT. IN A RENT STABILIZED BUILDING USE VIDEO CAMERAS TO REPORT ANYTHING SUCH AS USING A CLOSED EXIT..OR THING OF THAT NATURE...TO WHAT EXTENT CAN VIDEO SURVELENCE USED AGAINT TENANTS IN COMMON PLACES!! ALL FEEDBACK WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED

VG

i live in an decent apartment building in Hollywood, CA with approximately 60 units. 4 floors. security cameras around the bulding entrances, garage areas and whatnot. fine & understandable. BUT... there's a jacuzzi on the roof of this building and there's a video camera pointed right at it. this leads down to the mangers personal appartment where he sits doing god knows what while watching us tenents in swimsuits hangin out. i see no legit reason for this and find is very intrusive. there is no security issue on the roof. the bulding is not near enough to any other buildings for anyone to gain access to the roof. so, is this legal survellience here in the state of California. please help!

Mark Levine

The issue that I can see where the building would want to have that camera is for liability in case of a drowning, death, accident or other issue that would be an issue.

an unknown user

I was a live-in girlfriend, My companion and me had respectable company coming over to visit us maybe 3 to 4 times a week. A surveillance camera is pointed directly at our room. I have been accused of having sex and taking care of "business" Are we allowed to have guest without being constantly monitored by our llandlords who also have cameras at his own home.

Arthur Yellin

I live in a bldg that has just 2 Apts per floor each facing one another with an Elevator on the left and table with lamps and vases with flowers and a large, expensive Antique mirror between each Apt. I am here 40 yrs and stabilized. All mail and packages are delivered to the table. New tenants have broken Vases and lamps twice with Nanny carriage doing damage. Most serious is that my Monthly and weekly Medication (on cardiac and orthopedic disability) is delivered to table shared by our 2 apts. My "pinhole" camera embedded secretly in mirror has caught perpetrators stealing my "salable"Meds, and breaking my Vases by Nanny Carriage each time. Am I permitted to install a Camera in Vestibule facing away from neighbor's door out in open to preserve my security of property?

Shahnaz I

Urban resident have a great need of surveillance cameras. I strongly support a plan to plan to installing surveillance cameras. I was once a victim of a robbery. It was late afternoon around 5 pm; I have been robbed right front of my building. They took my cell phone, my purse ……I didn’t have phone to call 911. I was scared, shaking; it happens so fast in split second I didn’t even had chance to look at suspect…… words just not enough to express my fear. It was tragic experience i ever had and I hope no one else will experience. Thank you for your time reading my comment.

Dawn

I live in a building uptown and the landlord wants cameras on every floor so he can see who comes and goes. When a tenant leaves their apartment the landlord enters the apartment, sometimes a maitenance man enters. They always leave with bags filled with the tenants belongings. I hear some of my neighbors cursing and yelling because things are missing from the apartment. This is clearly an invasion of privacy. I am a grown woman I do not have to explain to you why I am having company. I do not have to let your place a camera in front of my door either. Funny how things break.

an unknown user

I live in a 10 unit, condominium building. I have been an owner since 1991. In the last 2 years (which coinsides with a new resident, who married an owner) several items have been taken from the common area basement. We do not have storage containers, but some of the items stolen, would not fit in a storage container, such as 2 large rugs. I am a trustee and have suggested that we install surveillance cameras in the basement. The other 2 trustees don't want this. One says it's too much like big brother the other advocates building storage containers (which will be quite expensive). What recourse do I have? I would feel safer and more secure with surveilance cameras based on an owner in the past that smoked heavily in the basement in his underpants. I also found a lot of porn when cleaning up the basement of cig butts. So I want this for the person who is disposing/stealing and past inappropriate acts, that occurred in the basement.

an unknown user

is it illegal to install a survaliance camera out doors in new york

ANN MARIE

I LIVE IN AN APT BLDG WITH 4 APTS. MY NEIGHBOR INSTALLED A CAMERA OUTSIDE HER DOOR WHICH ALSO FACES OUTSIDE MY DOOR .I FEEL THIS IS AN INVASION OF MY PRIVACY. DO I HAVE ANY RIGHTS?

TES

I live in a sub-divided building, two apartments upstairs and two studios downstairs. One of the upstairs residence has security cameras all over the building. This residence has the monitors in their apartment. Is this legal? No matter where I go around my building of residence these folks can watch me? Very uncomfortable!

SUSIE THOMAS

Is it illegal to install survaliance cameras that are connected to a police station in a residential building?

Tilak ahuja

It is nice blog on Surveillance Equipment. Home security is must. I am seeking more information on Surveillance Equipment if you can provide more on it.

ByTheSea

What are my rights as a tenant to have a web interface for access to the video myself? I'd like to be able to monitor areas, namely the garage level, using my desktop computer or smartphon.

ed

i n my appartment building they hav 9 cameras and one comera on my appartment door. I feel that this is hurastment to me please tell me if they can do this to me.

Cookie

My building just installed a keri key fob system. I asked for an additional key for my parents who check on my house they said No. Also are they allowed to monitor who and when comes into the building with these keys ? Is this an invasion of my privacy since each key is individual to each tenant.

Taz

I live in a apartment where there's a roof top and a deck. The owners recently installed at least 1 camera on every floor, as well as the roof top and the deck. Now my thing is about invasion of privacy.. my room is located near the deck (as in, i can climb out my window to access the deck rather than using the main doors); i recently climbed out my window, and and when i came back a few hours later, the position of the camera was angled directly towards my window!!! I feel uncomfortable and cant even have my blinds open anymore. Don't i have rights?? Isn't this invading my privacy as a renter?

Mtenat

I live in a apartment complex that has lost many good tenants, due to new management. 'the unit above me has been vacant for ove six months. During this time I have reported to my manager of pot odors and chemical odors especially when she goes home after closing hours. She tells everyone she lives on the premises, which is untrue. The unit is used by all kinds of people even other tenants. Could i use a security camera and prove to her that there is traffice going in and out of that unit and the unit which is also empty across the hallway. Our days and nights are so filled with odors of cigs, pot, and what ever they have up there that smells so bad. It is making us nausous at times. We have lived here for 14 years and never had this problem, paid my rent on time every month and cannot afford to move. Would it be illegal for me to film what is going on? Please consider this question and reply. Thank you.

Christine L

A friend of my lives in L.A. and thinks her apartment kitchen has had video equipment installed by her apartment manager - what recourse does she have and does Skype have this capability?

Dede

May I film my landlady's visit to my apartment in Los Angeles. She has harrassed me many times and I want to prevent this from happening again!

ARTHUR YELLIN

Please respond to this matter that is quite serious in that I have already had a Robbery outside my Apartment Vestibule where my Very expensive Medication was stolen I live in a bldg that has just 2 Apts per floor each facing one another with an Elevator on the left and table with lamps and vases with flowers and a large, expensive Antique mirror between each Apt. I am here 40 yrs and stabilized. All mail and packages are delivered to the table. New tenants have broken Vases and lamps twice with Nanny carriage doing damage. Most serious is that my Monthly and weekly Medication (on cardiac and orthopedic disability) is delivered to table shared by our 2 apts. My "pinhole" camera embedded secretly in mirror has caught perpetrators stealing my "salable"Meds, and breaking my Vases by Nanny Carriage each time. Am I permitted to install a Camera in Vestibule facing away from neighbor's door out in open to preserve my security of property? A response is much appreciated. AJY :

Mark

My neighbor has a securitty web cam over his back yard, which views my yard and activitiies in my yard. He has filed criminal mischeif charges against my kids for lighting sparklers, on my property, and the DA is alloewing the survellieance to continue. This state has some frreaky laws, such activity would be illegal in VA.. l

All tenants being spied on.

I live in an apartment complex in Colorado. The new manager admitted that she has people spying on us tenants even when we are walking in the common areas. She calls them her tattle tales. Do we not have rights to our privacy? She even wrote a letter to all tenants that we are being spied on.

ina gordon

I live in New York in the high rise building. For the past 3 years someone constantly steals my newspapers, deliveries and fedex and ups packages. I want to instal web camera on top of my door to monitor those activities. Please help. Do I have legfal rights to install web camera to mon itor all stealing activities?????

Linda

I live in Manhattan on a 3 floor walk up brownstone. The landlord and one of the tenants in my building are illegally renting out the basement to weekly refugees that come and go like the wind. I've complained by they just deny it. Can I put in a hidden camera in the entry hall aiming at the basement door to record all the different people? It's so common the Con Ed meter reader knows about it when they open the basement door to let him in. I complained again to the owner he denied it and raised my rent.. ???

Judy

I live in a trailer park in NH. My landlord is a bully and tried to evict me, but failed. In fact, he violated the consumer protection act and committed perjury at the hearing.Now that I have won and he can not evict me, he has installed video surveillance cameras directed at my home/lot. I am the only home he has a camera pointed at, the other cameras he installed are pointed up the streets. Obviously so he knows when I come and go. My neighbors told me they have seen him enter my home when I am not there so I now believe the camera is so he knows when we are not home so he can ener my home illegally. Is this interfereing with my quiet enjoyment of living in the park? My kids are really "freaked out: over this.

Just Johnny

I live in NY in a building half cooperatives and half renters. I taped a (hidden) pin hole camera inside my apartment's peep hole which views everyone passing threw the building and set up motion sensor to record anything that moves outside my door. Anything wrong with that?

Johnny-Z-Man

I live in a NYS apartment, half coop owners. For weeks, I was hearing a lot of noise in the hallway and observed on several occasions someone turning my door nob, so I installed free (trial) surveillance software on my PC, and tapped a $10.00 dollar pinhole camera on the inside of my door's peephole. Within 5-days I recorded two thugs that covered up the building's bubble cam, and got them with a pry-bar in their hands! As they were just about to pry my neighbors door open, they were interrupted by other tenants coming home from work and spooked them way just before police arrived. Management tried to cover it up by pretending that nothing ever happened on their property, (erased their video clips) they were hiding something or trying to make me look like a nut job to the detectives. Then they found out cops had proof of a felony that was commented on their property. They were warned by Police, that their security cameras better work next time, as this was the second time they pulled something like this. The building's bubble cams were installed to single out, spy, and use against the tenants, not to protect them. Now I'm upgrading my surveillance system and dare them to ever challenge me in court, as their system has proven to be nothing but a false sense of security and unreliable to assist law enforcement in their investigations.

tonytee

I have a little problem I live in ca. And the apt. Complex I live in has cameras every where 1 in elavator 1 on every floor where the elavator is and when u walk out there is 5 cameras on each floor in all hallways looking down on who and what us tenants do. They say they don't moniter them but only if there is an emergancy or something happends that requires them to replay the videos. The property manager always giving me notice for permission to enter my property with excuses just to come in and snoop around is this rite. She made it clear that she does not like us meaning my wife referring to her attitude. Wouldn't u also have an attitude if this happens please help need knowledge

Concern Tenant

I live in an apartment complex, my apartment is located on the first floor, end of the row of the building. Yesterday, I've noticed the 2nd floor window next door has a camera outside the window that is overlooking the parking lot. I wonder where the monitor is? There are 3 doors apartment next door from my apartment and the middle door is an efficiency where one of the maintenace of the complex resides. This maintenace employee who resides in the building, next door to mines was once involved with me this past July & August and him & I last conversation was this past Sept 2012. If he has a monitor in his apartment which he would have the advantage to watch me, is this legal? I stop parking my vehicle on the parking lot and making sacrifices of parking a bit far to avoid running into him. Its very uncomfortable to know because he has the advantage of watching me if has a monitor in his apartment. What could I do?

curious tenant

my landlord wants to install cameras on a 13 unit apt bldg. i'm told so he can monitor who is living in the apartments - i am led to believe this is legal? my bldg is quiet no robberies no drug addicts no vandals nothing - so whats the basis he can claim to put in cameras which some of my neighbors are as horrified as i am...a couple go away all summer after school ends till school begins & has friends come to collect mail etc. now they feel the landlord is doing this to evict people. as far as i know everyone who has been here for many years are rightful tenants & the new tenants have moved are so legit. so what gives & can we fight this invasion of privacy?

Milanmuu

I live in California and renting this triplex for about a year. A wall separates all 3. A tenant decides to place cameras (not ok'd by the management) one outside my door. This one is pointed at my door. If I wanted this I would have picked a rental with cameras. So my visitors are being videotaped by someone who can use their image young and old. What are my rights here?

an unknown user

I live in newington conn I live in a duplex and my neighbor put up a camera to make sure me or my guest do not do anything to her half of the duplex. I understand she can have one but it is focused on my side can they do this

Pauline

I own a home and have a roommate who shares the home. Her bedroom is on the same level as our shared laundry facilities. Is it legal (Colorado) for her to video tape me in my own home without my permission?

wtf

i see people asking questions but no answers what kind of site is this

Cooperator Editor

The Comments section of stories in our archive is just that - a place for readers to leave thoughts and remarks about articles. If a reader posts a question, other readers may respond directly to it - but this is not a moderated discussion forum. If you have a legal question pertaining to your co-op or condo, you can submit it via email to our Legal Q&A section at editorial@yrinc.com. We will pass your query on to one of our contributing attorneys and run his or her response in both our print and online publications.

margie. W.

I have to live in public housing with two cameras outside my entry door on my r and L. Isn't this un lawful privacy issue.

violated

In my building in new hampshire I just got a new landlord. I've been at my boyfriends a lot and went their to get my mail and visit my nieghbor. She was not home. The next day after I got outta work the landlord was there to ask me about rent. He told me he I was their the night before and he saw me on his cameras. Well I've looked for these cameras and can't find them. He won't tell me where they are. I feel very violated and discusted cause he's watching me and I don't know from where. is their ANYTHING that can be done about this issue??

melrose BLVD

II Live in Los Angeles and my landlord put seven security camra's directly pointed at certain positions going up stairs under womens dresses, have talked to him about the store he has under me and looking at custormers, So realizing that, A new tentant moved in with his girlfriend, And i"m sure he has a camra inside there unit

maryann@gmail

tenant in building outside taking pictures of children and other tenants unknown to them has caused problems at places I frequent like doctors follows me around camera is also outside my door what can I do to end this don't I have rights

an unknown user

I live in a small building, lanlord installed camera inside and outside the building, I live upstairs camera is very close by my apt, its pointing down but probably the lense allow the landlord to see inside my place everytime my door is open. He lives right in front of me and I believe the camera monitor is inside his place. I feel harassed and also I feel I have no real privacy. The lanlord and his people are constanly watching me and my family. The tenant downstair does not have this problem. If this is a valid complaint where can I go to report this.

coco

I rent a two room office, however the landlord suggested I live there to save money. How sweet right? Well, in the other room I do massage. Clients attempt to vet frisky and wpeacn case is handled on a individual basis. Out of the blue my landlord asks if I'm providing sexual favors. Later I found a dummy air vent with two holes on each side behind the teeth of vent and holes in ceiling in both rooms. I covered that *hit u with paper as well as toothpaste. For the hard to reach areas on high ceilings I placed toothpaste at end of broom handle, standing on table and covered holes that way. I plan to move in a few months.

Al

I live in a co-op apartment building and my concern is that of the pet house rules. Can a board use "security cameras" as a surveillance camera to capture someone not adhering to the house rules. Can they then use this to "fine" that owner and if the "fine" is not paid, put a lien on that owners' apartment unit? I've lived in this building for 22 years and all of a sudden the board is now using tactics to bully pet owners into paying a fine when they have never done so. These letters have come in very legal looking documents meant to threaten in my opinion. I would like to know your thoughts.

an unknown user

I share a common entrance hallway.with downstairs tenant.She and I have both been robbed in last two months,I installed a surveillance camera and she is crazy mad,She doesn't want me to know who's going in and out of her apt. I'm scared and want to be protected,but,she feels threatened and is secretive of who visits her. The police and city building inspector say I'm okay,but,she has now strung a huge dark curtain alongside my stair case so my camera can't view entrance.What can I do now,aside from being driven from my home that I love ???

anonymous

Our condominum has installed a camera that not only looks out into the marina, but can be aimed on everyone's balcony-- it zooms in so closely that you can tell what color nailpolish I am wearing ! Is this legal ?

Mel

I was wondering if anybody knew if a landlord can put camaras in the back yard ? , I live in a 2 story walk up and there are 5 apts , I know that the landlord can put camaras at like the front door of the building also by the parking lot but now they want to put camaras in the back yard were the tents have get togethers with friends and family , the back yard is fence in like a house and I feel that the landlords are going to far and wanted to know if they can do that ? And who would I call to find out and let the landlords know where they can put them up , I feel that since it is a building they can get away with putting camaras in the back cause not a lot of buildings have a back yard , I have tryed to find out on sites but not one says about a back yard ( grass area) thanks

Joy

why won't police get involved with unauthorized cameras in apartments


Write your comment

Your name (optional):
Your Comment (required):
Verification (required): img
Please copy the characters from the image above into the text field below. Doing this helps us prevent automated submissions.

Please allow up to 1 business day for your comment to be approved.

Building Operations

On The Board

NYC Living

Newspaper subscription

subscribe Subscribe to "The Cooperator" newspaper - it is FREE. Manage my subscriptions

E-Mail Newsletter

Would you prefer receiving the summary of new articles by e-mail? Your E-Mail: