Security Cam Steps on Tenants’ Privacy

Rent it Right

by Janet Portman, Inman News

landlord helpQ: A tenant in my building has been hassling me for no reason — I think she’s a bit off her rocker. Others in the building have had their cars keyed and have found her at their doorsteps, yelling and accusing them of various misdeeds. I told the landlord, who has said there’s little he can do without proof. Now he’s set up two webcams trained on my front door and my parking spot. He says when he catches her on tape, he’ll have the proof he needs.

I’m very uncomfortable with this approach — I don’t like to be watched every time I come and go. Isn’t this an invasion of my privacy? –Tina S.

A: In this day and age, when we’re used to seeing videos posted online of everything from public stonings in Pakistan to assaults at high school dances, it’s understandable that your landlord might think that he needs similar, unassailable proof of this resident’s misbehavior.

But this sounds like a situation where high-tech might not be the best solution. Your landlord could collect the evidence he needs to support a termination of this tenant without using a method that makes a blameless tenant feel uncomfortable.

Landlords have been dealing with disruptive residents since long before the advent of the webcam. They used old-fashioned strategies like interviewing those tenants affected by the behavior, documenting their stories, and taking photos of the damage.

True, this evidence is not as compelling as a video of the crime in action, but that doesn’t make it insufficient. Taken together — particularly when multiple residents have been the victims of such behavior — these stories and photos should be enough to convince a judge that this tenant should go.

Have a talk with your landlord and ask that he first try less invasive methods of collecting the evidence he may need. You might also suggest that an intervention, perhaps by a local landlord-tenant mediation service, may be in order.

The actions you describe do not appear to be those of a balanced person; perhaps a family member, or local mental health professionals, should be apprised of the situation.

Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” and “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.” She can be reached at [email protected].

Copyright 2010 Janet Portman

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