Resident safety and security are of utmost importance in our condominium communities regardless of the size of the property or whether in a small town or larger urban setting. The following question was posed by a condominium corporation board of directors: Can the corporation install surveillance cameras in the common element hallways of their property?
From a security perspective, this seems like a wise decision. As stated, the hallways of a townhouse or high-rise property are considered part of the common elements and therefore the corporation’s responsibility. Some issues to consider are:
1) Privacy concerns of other residents
2) Could challenges be made from other unit owners on the floor?
3) What are the requirements under Section 97 of the Condominium Act?
4) Whether the installation of surveillance cameras would be considered an addition, alteration or improvement.
Installing surveillance cameras on the common elements raises the issue of resident privacy. Within units the highest level of privacy is expected. However, outside a unit and in the common areas, unit owners and residents generally have a lower expectation of privacy. The expectation of privacy varies still – more if the building’s access is controlled, more in the hallways closer to units, and less if the building is large or in the main lobby area.
When considering the installation of surveillance cameras, the following general guidelines should be taken into account by the corporation: 1) obtain resident consent by posting clear notices at the building’s access points and in the lobby; 2) ensure that security cameras do not point towards the doors to units; 3) create a video camera surveillance policy that covers access to recordings, retention periods for the recordings, and other administrative, technical and physical safeguards.
What are the requirements found in the Condominium Act, 1998? Under Section 97 of the Act, the installation of new surveillance cameras represents an addition. Depending on the costs of this change to the common element hallways, Section 97 outlines three different requirements. In general terms, these are: No notice is required; Notice is required and/or a Vote is required.
If the change to the common element hallways is deemed necessary by the Board (for example there has been a demonstrated need for cameras to ensure resident safety and security) under Section 97(2)(b) the change could be made by resolution of the Board, which requires no notice to owners.
Finally, only operating funds may be used for such an installation of new surveillance cameras.
Disclaimer: This blog post is a short summary of a complex legal matter. Always obtain legal advice from your corporation’s solicitor.