Phil Querin Q&A - Tenant Video Cameras

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September 22, 2015
Phil Querin
MHCO Legal Counsel
Querin Law

Tenant Video Cameras

 

Question: In my community, there are two neighbors living next door to each other that don’t get along. One of the tenants has accused the other of having late night outside visitors and possible distribution of drugs, and vandalism to his property.  He has recently installed a security system to his home that includes cameras. One of those cameras is focused on his storage shed and also includes a view of the neighbor’s front porch and front door. My manager knows of the security set up and wanted to know if this situation can lead to an invasion of privacy claim by one tenant against the other tenant. Now that the manager knows this, is there some action we should take?

 

 

Answer:  I doubt the park rules contain anything about privacy rights or the use of video cameras.  As to laws being broken by the use of the camera, I don’t believe there are any.  Thus, I don’t seen any management responsibility at this point.  In other words, if the rental agreement, rules, or laws are not being broken, there would be no basis for management to treat the use of the camera as something for which the tenancy can be terminated, say, under a 30-day notice pursuant to ORS 90.630

 

ORS 90.740 enumerates several duties of residents in manufactured housing communities.  Subsection (4)(j) provides they must: “Behave, and require persons on the premises with the consent of the tenant to behave, in a manner that does not disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the premises by neighbors.”  Video taping from a stationary location, does not, in my opinion, appear to violate this law. If one resident followed the other around with a camera throughout the park, that would be another issue.  

 

Let’s call the resident with the camera, “Resident A”, and the one with the late-night visitors, “Resident B”. Your question did not say whether Resident B was aware of the video camera or that it was trained at his front door.  Nor did you indicate whether the video camera also had audio capability, such that it could pick up Resident B’s outdoor conversations with his late night guests.

 

In Oregon, ORS 165.540(1)(c) forbids a person from obtaining or attempting to obtain “the whole or any part of a conversation by means of any device, contrivance, machine, or apparatus, whether electrical, mechanical, manual or otherwise, if not all participants in the conversation are specifically informed that their conversation is being obtained.”  Note that informing the participants is required, but consent from them is not.  Subsection (3) of the statute provides that the above prohibitions do not apply to conversations that occur inside a homeowner’s residence, - even though the guests and visitors are not informed.

 

Although audio recordings are addressed by the above Oregon statute, video recordings are not. Nonetheless, the general rule, at least from a civil law standpoint, is whether the (e.g. Resident B) has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Doing drug deals outside is most likely an activity Resident B and his guests have no reasonable basis to expect privacy.

 

Certainly, Resident A can use the cameras on his own property and the streets, sidewalks, and any other public and quasi-public areas. Can the camera be trained on the front door of Resident B, as he admits his late night visitors? I cannot render a legal opinion on this, but would speculate that since it is outdoors, albeit on Tenant A’s own property, video recording should be OK (not audio recording, however).  But even if it’s not OK, is this a fight management wants to take up? This is not as if Resident A is screaming at Resident B’s late night guests, or is otherwise causing any disruption in the park.  If Resident B knows of the video surveillance, consent would seem to be a moot issue.  It would be prudent for Resident A to let Resident B know he has installed a security system that includes video surveillance.  The manager should encourage Resident A to do so, or authorize him (the manager) to do so.  Once informed, the entire expectation of privacy analysis becomes moot.

 

Lastly, I’m curious is Resident B’s activity is bothering anyone else?  If so, it may be time to take action.  I have always maintained that with residents whose late night activities smack of drug dealing, with all the typical indicators such as multiple visitors, noise, and short-term visits, etc., a 30-day curable notice under ORS 90.630 is a much easier tool to use as the basis of an eviction, than to try to “prove” a violation of ORS 90.396 (1)(f)(B), which allows the issuance of a non-curable 24-hour notice for the manufacture, delivery, or possession of a controlled substance as defined by various Oregon statutes. 

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