Video Cameras—for Surveillance Purposes Only

Video Cameras—for Surveillance Purposes Only

By Kevin L. Edwards, Esq. / Published April 2024

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Many associations have installed video surveillance cameras within the community common areas as a means to provide security for their residents. However, good intentions often lead to unanticipated consequences. In fact, the use of video cameras may expose an association to liability.

     Generally, an association is not a guarantor or insurer of any person’s safety and is not obligated to provide “security” to its residents. However, once an association assumes a duty to provide security, it must do so in a nonnegligent manner. This may very well be the case with installing “security cameras.” Florida courts have routinely held that if an association undertakes, or appears to undertake, the duty to provide security for its community, it must also take certain measures to prevent criminal activity from occurring on the premises.

     For example, the court in Vazquez v. Lago Grande Homeowners Ass’n, 900 So. 2d 587 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004), ruled that the association had a duty to exercise reasonable care to guard its residents against crime or criminal activity because the association had undertaken the responsibility to provide such security. In this case the association was a gated community with a guardhouse staffed 24 hours a day. The developer marketed the complex on the basis of safety, and the association collected a specific part of its assessments to provide for security. A resident of the association moved into the community because it appeared safe and was gated. The resident had many visitors, including a former neighbor and the neighbor’s children. One day the  former neighbor’s estranged husband came into the community to pick up his children and got into an argument with the resident. Thereafter, the resident instructed the association’s security guards not to let the estranged husband into the community. Despite this, the security guards allowed the estranged husband to enter the community, and he shot the resident, shot and killed his ex-wife, and killed himself. The court found that the association had breached its duty to provide security because it continued to employ the security guards despite knowing that they routinely let unauthorized individuals into the community. Therefore, the association was found liable for the death of a visitor and  injury of a resident.

     Thus, associations may wish to be careful not to label the video cameras as “security cameras” and instead let the owners know that the cameras are for surveillance purposes only. As previously mentioned, associations have no duty to provide security, and having “security cameras” will lead owners to believe that the association is providing security.

     Regardless of whether the association uses video cameras, it is still liable for criminal conduct that is reasonably foreseeable. In Czerwinski v. Sunrise Point Condominium, 540 So. 2d 199 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1999), the court ruled that a landlord generally has no duty to ensure the safety of its tenants or to protect them from the criminal acts of third persons unless the criminal occurrence is reasonably foreseeable. The court further noted that the landlord’s knowledge of prior crimes, against both persons and property, is relevant to the issue of foreseeability, even if the prior criminal acts are lesser crimes than the one committed against the plaintiff.

     Based on these cases, community associations have been held liable in tort for failure to take precautions against criminal activities committed against the owners and residents if those criminal activities are reasonably foreseeable; and in addition they have been held liable when they voluntarily provide security services but fail to provide them in a reasonable

     Thus, if the association is inclined to install video cameras, it must do so in a reasonably prudent manner and should make sure the cameras are always being maintained in good condition and repaired as needed.

     Another issue with providing cameras in the community is whether or not the cameras record audio. Florida law (Section 934.03, FS) makes it illegal to intentionally intercept, attempt to intercept, or procure any other person to intercept any wire, electronic, or oral communication through the use of a device if one does not have the prior consent of all parties. Therefore, the association’s cameras must be limited to visual images. The process of taking and recording video is perfectly legal, and you do not need to notify the owners or post signs upon the property that the association is taking or recording video. There is no privacy issue as long as the cameras are not directed into a resident’s home or into a bathroom, shower, changing room, or other area where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy for persons who use the common areas or come onto the association’s property (with the exception of bathrooms, showers, units, etc.).

     Lastly, a surveillance camera’s video recordings are not part of the association’s official records. The association’s official records are limited to written records, and a video recording is not a written record. As such, video camera recordings are not open for review by the association’s membership. Moreover, an association is not legally obligated to store the recordings for any specific period of time. However, if stored for any amount of time, the association must be sure to preserve the video in case it may be used as evidence in a court proceeding. Video footage should, therefore, be made and stored in a location where it will not be tampered with or duplicated. The footage should be stored in a secure location with access limited to authorized personal. Any footage that is to be kept should be preserved in an original and unaltered version by saving it in a secure manner that is incapable of being edited.

Kevin Edwards

Shareholder, Becker

     Mr. Edwards manages the community association practice in Becker’s Sarasota office and serves as corporate counsel to hundreds of condominium, cooperative, mobile home, and homeowners’ associations located in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and Highlands Counties. Mr. Edwards is also one of only 190 attorneys statewide who is a board-certified specialist in condominium and planned development law.
     In addition to his extensive experience as a community association lawyer, Mr. Edwards has trial and appellate experience in many areas of corporate and civil litigation, construction litigation, covenant enforcement, real estate, and foreclosure law.
     For more information, call 941-366-8826, email, or visit