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Few Smiles for These Cameras: Security Cameras, Restrictions on Renting Condos

January 31st 2015

A Neighbor’s Eye on the Hallway

Are residents allowed to install digital cameras that capture images through a peephole out into the hallway — often on motion sensors? This seems to cross the line, as it means residents can monitor and capture images of their neighbors’ activities; their comings and goings; and even the insides of their homes when doors are open.

Upper West Side, Manhattan

A peephole camera affixed to an apartment door certainly sounds like a paranoid, if not creepy, thing to do. But as odd as the behavior might appear, a resident could have a good reason for installing such a device.

Brian McLaughlin, the president of the SecureCom Group, which installs surveillance systems, said, “The only time we’ve done that is if someone was being harassed.” In that case, “the only person they’re concerned about is the one who is vandalizing their door.”

Let us imagine for a minute that the neighbor is not fending off stalkers, but is instead an overzealous watchdog. If a resident wants to blanket his or her apartment with surveillance equipment, there’s nothing to stop it. “Inside the apartment, the tenant can do pretty much as the tenant pleases,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. “This includes pointing cameras outside of the apartment from within the apartment.”

Generally, a resident can use a camera through a peephole on the door so long as its scope is limited to the hallway. If the lens captures the interior of a neighboring unit, that could be illegal, according to xxx, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. But some courts have ruled that such incidental views of an apartment’s interior do not violate the law. So, unless someone takes the resident to court over the issue, it is up to building management to decide whether to allow it. As for the hallway, that is generally off limits for residents. Only management can install cameras in common areas.

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