Outdoor Security Cameras at Your Housing Cooperative

The installation of security cameras is widely considered amongst cooperatives mainly for the security and surveillance of its parking lots. The installation of security cameras has its benefits as well as its detriments, but it does not come without issues for multifamily housing properties. There are legal ramifications that are associated with the installation of outdoor security cameras on cooperative premises.

The installation of security cameras, which encompasses the hardwiring of an electrical fixture to the exterior of a building, could seriously compromise not only the structural integrity of the building and/or unit(s), but could also compromise the safety of other members of the cooperative. Although it may seem that security cameras are a minor addition, affixing anything, regardless of how small in size the fixture is, to the exterior of the buildings may compromise the structural integrity of the building or may interfere with existing plumbing, electrical, gutters, downspouts, rain guards, or roofs. A cooperative does not want to face issues with deteriorating exterior structures or compromised service lines located within the interior structure of the building down the line if the exterior structure was damaged or if any vital service lines within the walls were compromised by the installation of the security cameras.

More importantly, issues with the electrical aspect of the installation arise if the electrical wiring of the security cameras were not done properly. Generally, as the buildings of a cooperative are comprised of units that share a common structural foundation, it is vital that the installation of any electrical device does not create any fire or safety hazards, or compromise the structural integrity of the exterior structure, or compromise the plumbing or electrical services of other members of the cooperative. Further, the issue of building code violations also arise if the installation of the security camera is installed in violation of any city of building code.

Implementing the installation of security cameras to the exterior structure of the building may bring challenges for a cooperative. The cooperative could potentially face future liability as a result of the altering of the general common elements of the buildings. The cooperative must protect itself and its members so that the cooperative does not lend itself to future litigation or loss of unit or units due to safety and fire hazards that may stem from the installation of security cameras. A cooperative may find that it would be in its best interest to preserve the current structural integrity of the buildings and not allow for the installation of security cameras.

If a cooperative desires to implement the installation of security cameras for security and surveillance purposes on its buildings to observe the parking lots or any other general common element located on the cooperative premises, the cooperative must be aware of the problematic issues that could likely arise, outside of the possibility of compromising the structural integrity of the Cooperative. Such issues that could arise, but are not limited to:

The Position of the Camera Lens

If a cooperative desires to install security cameras mainly for the oversight and protection of its parking lots, it must be aware that at no time should any camera lens have a view of anything but the parking lot. The camera lens cannot be facing towards any member’s front or back porch. If the cooperative were to also consider having security cameras installed in any other area of cooperative premises, the camera lens can only face that specific general common element, and not any member’s front or back porch area. The cooperative’s board must be aware that in the event that the security cameras are being improperly used and the cooperative is sued, the cooperative will have to defend itself.

Security Camera Policies and Procedures for Board Members, Office Staff, Maintenance Staff, and Management to follow

Legally speaking, everyone is afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is the cooperative’s duty to see that each member is protected and there is not an invasion of anyone’s privacy with respect to the operation and security cameras. The cooperative’s board must implement reasonable policies and procedures for those office and maintenance employees to follow whom are to come into contact with the security cameras. The board may also want to adopt similar policies and procedures for itself to follow, if any board member is to also come into contact with the security cameras. The implementation of reasonable policies and procedures for all to follow with respect to the handling of the security cameras and its footage is vital so that the cooperative does not lend itself to future litigation in the event that the security cameras are improperly being used.

Recordkeeping

With the installation of security cameras comes the burden of recordkeeping. The cooperative’s board would have to determine the time frame in which it will retain such footage. Said proposed timeframe in which the cooperative was to retain such footage could result in a heavy burden for the office and maintenance staff. Generally, as there are many buildings that make up a cooperative premises, there would be multiple cameras to extract footage from each day, week or month. The implementation of the security cameras could take away from the day to day operation and management of the Cooperative. Moreover, there is also the risk of forgetting to record, the deletion of helpful information whether on accident or on purpose, or even the failure to turn the cameras on that would without a doubt cause a heavy burden on the cooperative. Moreover, there is a high probability that members of the cooperative would be requesting access to such footage that would, without a doubt, take away from the day to day operation and management of the cooperative.

Cooperative Member Complaints

The installation of security cameras could open the floodgates with respect to member complaints. There is a high probability that the cooperative office staff, management and/or the cooperative’s board is going to have to micromanage every member complaint and request for footage. This micromanaging will, without a doubt, tie up the day to day operations of the cooperative as well as create an influx of issues at board meetings with violation hearings.

Insurance

As the interior/exterior structure of the building would be altered with security cameras, the cooperative must be aware of the insurance policies that would have to be implemented to protect the cooperative. The cooperative would have to contact its insurance agent to inquire what policies and limits would need to be obtained and maintained by the cooperative. A major drawback to implementing the installation of security cameras on the buildings is the fact that the security cameras could cause damage to the interior/exterior structure of the dwelling unit if the security camera is installed improperly, or if the contractor causes damage to the building, or if there is inclement weather and the security camera is extracted from its hardware, or if the interior/exterior structure cannot withstand the weight of the security cameras and causes damage to the structure internally or externally. The cooperative must be aware of the potential issues that accompany the installation of security cameras, and the cooperative’s board must protect the cooperative by obtaining and maintaining the proper insurance policies and limits for the installation of all security cameras as alterations would be done to the interior/exterior of a general common element.

Selection of Contractor

The cooperative’s board will have to select a contractor to perform the installation of the security cameras. The board will have to meet with individual contractors at a board meeting and listen to their proposals for installing the security cameras. The board must also request that every contractor is to provide evidence that they are licensed and fully insured as well as provide a certificate of insurance for Workers’ Compensation and liability before work is commenced.

Selection of Security Cameras

The cooperative’s board will have to decide what type of security cameras are to be installed on the buildings and how the cameras will be wired into the electrical system, whether it be into the electrical system of a unit or whether an electrical box will have to be included. The board will also have to decide on the specific aesthetic criteria so that all cameras are the same color and type so that there is uniformity within the cooperative.

Tampering of Security Cameras

The cooperative’s board must also be mindful that members or their guests could vandalize or tamper with the security cameras. It would be in the board’s best interest to implement a policy change within the Rules and Regulations that would prohibit the tampering of cooperative security cameras.

If a cooperative were to decide that it would allow for the installation of security cameras, the cooperative’s board must be mindful of the above-listed areas of concerns that not only affect the day to day operations of the cooperative but also affect the livelihoods of the members. As stated above, every individual is legally afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is vital that the cooperative preserve and afford every member with a reasonable expectation of privacy and not use the security cameras to invade anyone’s privacy.

In sum, the installation of security cameras to the interior/exterior structure of the buildings will no doubt bring many challenges to a cooperative. The cooperative could potentially face future liability as a result of the installation of the security cameras to the general common elements of the cooperative. The cooperative must be mindful that it must protect the cooperative and the members so that the cooperative does not lend itself to future litigation or loss of any unit or units due to safety and fire hazards that may stem from the installation of security cameras. The cooperative must be also mindful of the fact that the installation of security cameras will not come without problems as difficult enforcement and operational issues will arise, such as recordkeeping and responding to member complaints as well as the threat of improper use of the cameras by staff that could lead to invasion of privacy claims. Cooperatives considering installing outdoor security cameras on cooperative premises should consult its cooperative attorney as there are legal ramifications that are associated with the installation of outdoor security cameras.

Please note this content is provided to our readers for educational purposes but it is not intended and should not be regarded as legal advice. Readers are encouraged to consult with competent legal counsel for personalized guidance.


Alyssa Gunsorek is an associate attorney with experience in contract negotiations. She has contributed articles for various publications including the MAHC Messenger, NAHC’s Housing Cooperative Quarterly, and Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak’s Cooperative Law Journal.

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Outdoor Security Cameras at Your Housing Cooperative

The installation of security cameras is widely considered amongst cooperatives mainly for the security and surveillance of its parking lots. The installation of security cameras has its benefits as well as its detriments, but it does not come without issues for multifamily housing properties. There are legal ramifications that are associated with the installation of outdoor security cameras on cooperative premises.

The installation of security cameras, which encompasses the hardwiring of an electrical fixture to the exterior of a building, could seriously compromise not only the structural integrity of the building and/or unit(s), but could also compromise the safety of other members of the cooperative. Although it may seem that security cameras are a minor addition, affixing anything, regardless of how small in size the fixture is, to the exterior of the buildings may compromise the structural integrity of the building or may interfere with existing plumbing, electrical, gutters, downspouts, rain guards, or roofs. A cooperative does not want to face issues with deteriorating exterior structures or compromised service lines located within the interior structure of the building down the line if the exterior structure was damaged or if any vital service lines within the walls were compromised by the installation of the security cameras.

More importantly, issues with the electrical aspect of the installation arise if the electrical wiring of the security cameras were not done properly. Generally, as the buildings of a cooperative are comprised of units that share a common structural foundation, it is vital that the installation of any electrical device does not create any fire or safety hazards, or compromise the structural integrity of the exterior structure, or compromise the plumbing or electrical services of other members of the cooperative. Further, the issue of building code violations also arise if the installation of the security camera is installed in violation of any city of building code.

Implementing the installation of security cameras to the exterior structure of the building may bring challenges for a cooperative. The cooperative could potentially face future liability as a result of the altering of the general common elements of the buildings. The cooperative must protect itself and its members so that the cooperative does not lend itself to future litigation or loss of unit or units due to safety and fire hazards that may stem from the installation of security cameras. A cooperative may find that it would be in its best interest to preserve the current structural integrity of the buildings and not allow for the installation of security cameras.

If a cooperative desires to implement the installation of security cameras for security and surveillance purposes on its buildings to observe the parking lots or any other general common element located on the cooperative premises, the cooperative must be aware of the problematic issues that could likely arise, outside of the possibility of compromising the structural integrity of the Cooperative. Such issues that could arise, but are not limited to:

The Position of the Camera Lens

If a cooperative desires to install security cameras mainly for the oversight and protection of its parking lots, it must be aware that at no time should any camera lens have a view of anything but the parking lot. The camera lens cannot be facing towards any member’s front or back porch. If the cooperative were to also consider having security cameras installed in any other area of cooperative premises, the camera lens can only face that specific general common element, and not any member’s front or back porch area. The cooperative’s board must be aware that in the event that the security cameras are being improperly used and the cooperative is sued, the cooperative will have to defend itself.

Security Camera Policies and Procedures for Board Members, Office Staff, Maintenance Staff, and Management to follow

Legally speaking, everyone is afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is the cooperative’s duty to see that each member is protected and there is not an invasion of anyone’s privacy with respect to the operation and security cameras. The cooperative’s board must implement reasonable policies and procedures for those office and maintenance employees to follow whom are to come into contact with the security cameras. The board may also want to adopt similar policies and procedures for itself to follow, if any board member is to also come into contact with the security cameras. The implementation of reasonable policies and procedures for all to follow with respect to the handling of the security cameras and its footage is vital so that the cooperative does not lend itself to future litigation in the event that the security cameras are improperly being used.

Recordkeeping

With the installation of security cameras comes the burden of recordkeeping. The cooperative’s board would have to determine the time frame in which it will retain such footage. Said proposed timeframe in which the cooperative was to retain such footage could result in a heavy burden for the office and maintenance staff. Generally, as there are many buildings that make up a cooperative premises, there would be multiple cameras to extract footage from each day, week or month. The implementation of the security cameras could take away from the day to day operation and management of the Cooperative. Moreover, there is also the risk of forgetting to record, the deletion of helpful information whether on accident or on purpose, or even the failure to turn the cameras on that would without a doubt cause a heavy burden on the cooperative. Moreover, there is a high probability that members of the cooperative would be requesting access to such footage that would, without a doubt, take away from the day to day operation and management of the cooperative.

Cooperative Member Complaints

The installation of security cameras could open the floodgates with respect to member complaints. There is a high probability that the cooperative office staff, management and/or the cooperative’s board is going to have to micromanage every member complaint and request for footage. This micromanaging will, without a doubt, tie up the day to day operations of the cooperative as well as create an influx of issues at board meetings with violation hearings.

Insurance

As the interior/exterior structure of the building would be altered with security cameras, the cooperative must be aware of the insurance policies that would have to be implemented to protect the cooperative. The cooperative would have to contact its insurance agent to inquire what policies and limits would need to be obtained and maintained by the cooperative. A major drawback to implementing the installation of security cameras on the buildings is the fact that the security cameras could cause damage to the interior/exterior structure of the dwelling unit if the security camera is installed improperly, or if the contractor causes damage to the building, or if there is inclement weather and the security camera is extracted from its hardware, or if the interior/exterior structure cannot withstand the weight of the security cameras and causes damage to the structure internally or externally. The cooperative must be aware of the potential issues that accompany the installation of security cameras, and the cooperative’s board must protect the cooperative by obtaining and maintaining the proper insurance policies and limits for the installation of all security cameras as alterations would be done to the interior/exterior of a general common element.

Selection of Contractor

The cooperative’s board will have to select a contractor to perform the installation of the security cameras. The board will have to meet with individual contractors at a board meeting and listen to their proposals for installing the security cameras. The board must also request that every contractor is to provide evidence that they are licensed and fully insured as well as provide a certificate of insurance for Workers’ Compensation and liability before work is commenced.

Selection of Security Cameras

The cooperative’s board will have to decide what type of security cameras are to be installed on the buildings and how the cameras will be wired into the electrical system, whether it be into the electrical system of a unit or whether an electrical box will have to be included. The board will also have to decide on the specific aesthetic criteria so that all cameras are the same color and type so that there is uniformity within the cooperative.

Tampering of Security Cameras

The cooperative’s board must also be mindful that members or their guests could vandalize or tamper with the security cameras. It would be in the board’s best interest to implement a policy change within the Rules and Regulations that would prohibit the tampering of cooperative security cameras.

If a cooperative were to decide that it would allow for the installation of security cameras, the cooperative’s board must be mindful of the above-listed areas of concerns that not only affect the day to day operations of the cooperative but also affect the livelihoods of the members. As stated above, every individual is legally afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is vital that the cooperative preserve and afford every member with a reasonable expectation of privacy and not use the security cameras to invade anyone’s privacy.

In sum, the installation of security cameras to the interior/exterior structure of the buildings will no doubt bring many challenges to a cooperative. The cooperative could potentially face future liability as a result of the installation of the security cameras to the general common elements of the cooperative. The cooperative must be mindful that it must protect the cooperative and the members so that the cooperative does not lend itself to future litigation or loss of any unit or units due to safety and fire hazards that may stem from the installation of security cameras. The cooperative must be also mindful of the fact that the installation of security cameras will not come without problems as difficult enforcement and operational issues will arise, such as recordkeeping and responding to member complaints as well as the threat of improper use of the cameras by staff that could lead to invasion of privacy claims. Cooperatives considering installing outdoor security cameras on cooperative premises should consult its cooperative attorney as there are legal ramifications that are associated with the installation of outdoor security cameras.

Please note this content is provided to our readers for educational purposes but it is not intended and should not be regarded as legal advice. Readers are encouraged to consult with competent legal counsel for personalized guidance.


Alyssa Gunsorek is an associate attorney with experience in contract negotiations. She has contributed articles for various publications including the MAHC Messenger, NAHC’s Housing Cooperative Quarterly, and Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak’s Cooperative Law Journal.

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