Can A Landlord Use Surveillance Outside A Property?

Inspired by "Is IR Video Surveillance Legal In Movie Theaters? " and a call by one of my clients.

A client of ours is going to rent his property, a house, that has a surveillance system we installed and has remote viewing setup. He originally contacted me and asked how he could keep his connectivity to his him system. Without much thought I gave him some suggestions on doing just that. Today he called and someone had mentioned to him that leaving the system online and recording was an invasion of privacy. I am not sure whether this is or not. To me it seems that if all the cameras are on the exterior of the property, which they are, that this may be legal. I am pretty sure if the landlord discloses the presence of the system and has the tenant sign an agreement there would be no issue.

What do you think or know? Can a landlord use a surveillance system on their property without any sort of agreement with a tenant?

Thanks!


From a Kirschenbaum June 6 email:

"The landlord can install cameras in common areas that view public places, and there would be no restriction on viewing hallway doors. The camera cannot view into an apartment however, and installing a camera that does will most likely lead to an invasion of privacy lawsuit against thelandlord."

Thanks, John. This is why I think it may be ok. The difference and what I am not sure about is this is a house in suburbia and not an apartment. Do you think this changes anything? To me the front yard, entry way and/or driveway is ok but what about the backyard? I sort of feel there is a higher level of expectation of privacy there. I have been told and believe that you cant put cameras in a residential area (house) and have them record the neighbors backyard or property without risking some violation of privacy.

I do appreciate your quick response and look forward to more insight.

I am not sure. I'd probably explain what the camera actually looks at and have the tenant sign an agreement to be safe.

David, which state is the property in?

Are there any sections of the property under surveillance which are not visible at all from public property?

One idea would be to allow the tenant access to the views while renting, this could be touted as a benefit, and could also serve as a non-threatening way of informing to their presence.

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the suggestion. This client is in Maryland. I instructed the client that his best course, since this is somewhat grey, would be to ask the tenant to sign an agreement or to disable the system if the tenant refuses or is uncomfortable. Two shots are of the front yard and driveway with a third of the back porch. The back porch can be seen by neighbors but I do not think there is a view from any public area so I would think that this shot may not be acceptable without an agreement.

I appreciate the feedback and since I had never run accross this but having similarities with rental apartments I thought it would be good to ask here to see if anyone had run into this.

Always good when in doubt to CYA.


David

David, I saw this letter from a Senator to the Maryland Attorney general. Although it specifically is referring to cameras recording street events, it does break down the three applicable Maryland statutes regarding video recording. I could not find the text, just the jpg, so:

Just had a customers neighbor call the police and complain to them about a camera we added to their system that we put in last fall. To make along story short I ended up on the phone and he asked if I could move the camera and I said if the customer wants me to I can. He then stated that it was illegal and I explained in a professional manner that at least in Iowa that it wasn't illegal because if a person was standing in the same spot they could see the same thing. He said I agree but will double check with the county attorney which he did and she also told him that it was not illegal. I'm. Retired LEO and they know that so not sure if that had some bearing or not.