Installing security cameras at community entrances, or elsewhere within the community, may sound like an excellent idea – it could deter nefarious acts, assist in determining who is causing problems, and create evidence of bad acts. Community association directors may, however, be unaware that it could also increase the association’s risk. As to nonfunctional cameras, these can create a false sense of security, and can result in demands for footage which does not even exist (and in turn, potentially unrecoverable attorney’s fees and costs addressing those demands). Moreover, the obligation to maintain cameras once installed could create additional security obligations which the association did not previously have under Florida law or its governing documents. Cameras can occasionally malfunction, require repairs or replacement, etc. They must also be placed where individuals’ reasonable right to privacy is not violated. Moreover, footage must be stored securely (thus again increasing the association’s cost), and could be subject to inspection and copying as association records, or sought in litigation-related discovery. The association must also determine how long the footage must be maintained (which may be dictated by the governing documents, association records statutes, and other Florida or federal laws). Finally, the association must determine who will review the footage obtained, and how frequently, and whether the review will bear additional cost.
Finally, multiple Florida condominium arbitration Final Orders have found that installation of cameras in a Florida condominium association is a material alteration of common elements which requires membership (rather than merely Board) approval prior to installation. To avoid a membership vote, a condominium association must demonstrate that: "a convincing factual predicate exists such that the board's action was necessary to protect the common elements or inhabitants from a known danger." See, e.g., Southridge Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Barbieri, Arb. Case No.94-0382, Summary Final Order (December 27, 1994). Such rulings ostensibly apply to cooperative associations as well, and a judge considering the issue in reference to a homeowners association may consider a similar subjective standard.
In short, we highly recommend conferring with the association’s counsel and management before installing any real or nonfunctional video cameras on common elements.