By Beth Mulcahy, Esq.

Should associations implement greater measures to protect association members and association property? We see ever increasing acts of violence and vandalism, so are security cameras the answer?

In Martinez v. Woodmar IV Condominiums Homeowners Association, Inc., 189 Ariz. 206, 941 P.2d 218 (Ariz. 1997), the guest of a tenant of a unit owner was injured in a shooting that occurred in the common area of the condominium. The Arizona Supreme Court held that a condominium association (or a planned community) has the same duties as a landlord. Those being that an association’s duty is to maintain the areas under its exclusive control (the common areas) in a safe condition and to protect owners, tenants and their guests from dangerous conditions or activities. The court also found that criminal acts of which an association has notice can constitute a dangerous condition.

Martinez requires that an association take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of its common areas. Where do security cameras come into play? Do the benefits of installing security cameras outweigh any potential liability for their use?

With the installation of security cameras, the association is taking a step to increase the safety of its common area. Visible security cameras, even “fake” ones, can act as a deterrent. Real cameras with recording capability could provide evidence in a court proceeding. However, adding cameras may offer no more of a deterrent than adopting other reasonable security procedures, such as lighting and roving security patrols. Additionally, cameras may instill a false sense of security if association members know, or think, that someone is watching and will come to their rescue, when in fact the cameras are not monitored. It is important to inform association owners that the cameras are not monitored by a security person. Signs may help with the education regarding use of security cameras. A sign reading “All activity in this area is being recorded by video cameras, but cameras are not monitored by security personnel” could be installed. However, a sign with that message may negate its deterrent capability.

To avoid the association facing liability for use of a malfunctioning or improperly used camera, the association should routinely inspect the camera equipment to ensure it is in proper working order.

Finally, the topic of video surveillance may raise concerns regarding insurance considerations and privacy concerns which is cause for an association to carefully consider whether or not to install cameras.

The installation of security cameras can be carefully researched for your association by a Mulcahy Law Firm, P.C. attorney. Please contact us if your association is considering the installation of security cameras.