W.S. from Waukesha County, Wisconsin writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a unit owner who has placed video cameras on the common area sidewalk outside his unit. He has these cameras pointed upward towards another unit owner’s balcony. After checking with the police, it is not illegal. Creepy, yes, but not illegal. As the Board President I asked our management company to email him asking what the purpose of the cameras were because it is making a few of the unit owners uncomfortable. He has not replied. My next step is to change the rules and regulations to not allow any audio or video cameras on the common areas, give him some time to remove them. If he doesn’t the next step would be to serve a letter upon him asking him to remove it within 24 hours or the cameras will be confiscated by the management company. Do you feel this is the right course of action?
Mister Condo replies:
W.S., asking the unit owner the purpose of the cameras I somewhat irrelevant. The idea that an individual unit owner can simply take over common area for any purpose is simply not allowed. The fact that these cameras seem to be directed at another owner’s balcony is a total violation of that owner’s privacy. You can play it the way you suggest and allow the unit owner to remove the equipment if that will cause the least amount of friction but the correct solution is to have the cameras removed immediately by the management company and let the unit owner retrieve the equipment from them and instruct them to tell him that he is not to use the common elements in this way again. If you need to pass a rule forbidding the use of audio and video equipment on association grounds, by all means, do so. Additionally, be sure to have very stiff fines and penalties for such actions. You need to protect the privacy of all unit owners. Since the police didn’t give you the particulars, I must also insist that you speak with an association attorney to guide you through this process. Yes, the unit owner making the videos has rights but the association and other unit owners also have rights that must be protected. If a unit owner was videotaped in their own home without their consent or knowledge, the association could very well be named in a lawsuit along with the unit owner who took the video. Better safe than sorry. Good luck!