Phil Querin Q&A: Installing Security Cameras In Communities

Want access to MHCO content?

For complete access to forms, conference presentations, community updates and MHCO columns, log in to your account or register.

Phil Querin

Question: We have recently had a rash of suspicious people in the park in the middle of the night, which has been making several of the residents nervous. About a week ago, somebody came in and boldly stole a small utility trailer out of our RV storage lot. No-one lives in this lot; it's purely for storage of residents' RV's, boats, trailers, etc. I say boldly because the lot is fairly well lit.

Since this has happened, we are now considering putting it a security camera system in the park. My concern is, by doing so would that make me more liable if something gets stolen? We have always told the residents that we do not provide security, but there is inherent security in living in such close quarters. What I don't want to happen, is I put a security system in, something gets stolen, and I end up liable for the theft.

 

Answer: I think the first order of business would be to research the different types of security cameras, and their range of use. You need to know what features they all have.

 

I do not know what you mean when you say that you "have always told the residents that we do not provide security... ." It's one thing to remind residents of their own responsibility to protect their property, and another to have posted signage saying so. You should develop a written policy, circulate it and post it.

 

 

Also, you don't say whether you have a separate storage charge for use of the RV storage lot. Nor do you say whether access is limited, e.g. through a gate. Generally, when one (e.g. a landlord) provides separate storage facilities, you can expect some degree of liability to attach unless access is controlled, e.g. by a security fence.

 

My initial reaction to the idea of security cameras is generally good, subject to the following caveats:

- If it is not monitored, tenants should know that, so they do not have unrealistic expectations of the system's efficacy.

- Make sure that the system is visible with warning signs; I would expect that most security camera companies provide such signage.

- Make sure the tenants understand the limitations of the surveillance; I would want to have written disclaimers to all residents that they store their RVs at their own risk.

- I would even have a short written and signed agreement of understanding with tenants before allowing them to use the facilities.

This area of the law is known as "bailments", i.e. when someone provides storage of personal property to another. Think of places where you can check your hat or coat. Even the little ticket they give you has visible disclaimers. And even thought the bailment is free, it can create liability for the bailee (the one storing the property) unless adequate precautions are taken, and there is - or is not - a written disclaimer that is given to the bailor (the one delivering the property).

Lastly, consider this; you are now on notice that thefts can occur from the storage area, even with good lighting. Perhaps you might consider installing additional surveillance not only around the storage area, but elsewhere in the park (with appropriate signage) as well. Residents should be vigilant and notify management if they see suspicious activity or strangers.

© 2011-2019 Manufactured Housing Communities of Oregon (MHCO)

503-391-4496 | Contact MHCO

MHCO Information Security Policy (2018-19)

Web design and development by Cosmonaut