Video Doorbells – A Quick Summary of Some of the Concerns

We have recently received some interesting questions about the installation of “video doorbells” (and other similar devices with video-imaging and/or recording capacity) by owners outside their units. As this is a common concern in many condominiums, we thought it useful to prepare a blog to assist our readers with navigating this issue.

As noted in one of our previous blogs, the presence of video cameras and other similar devices/systems on the condominium property can give rise to several concerns. In general, the installation by an owner of a video doorbell (or a similar device with video imaging or recording capacity) outside the door of their unit would amount to videoing the common elements and would also often involve a change to the common elements. Condominium residents and visitors have a reasonable expectation of privacy on the common elements and, while the level of privacy to be expected can vary from one area of the condominium complex to another (as confirmed by a recent decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal), a video recording or a photograph of other residents can be considered as personal information that can (in certain circumstances) amount to a breach of privacy rights. Therefore, a key initial concern is the possibility that a video doorbell may amount to a breach of privacy.

Having said the above, we note that condominium corporations (as opposed to individual owners) generally do have the right to take images of persons on the common elements strictly for the purpose of fulfilling the Corporation’s obligations under the Condominium Act, 1998 and under the Corporation’s governing documents. Condominium corporations are required to ensure the safety and security of the common elements and, as part of that mandate, they must review safety and security issues as they arise and take reasonable measures (as determined by the Board) to address any concerns. Such steps may at times involve installing security cameras or systems (often with notice to persons on the property) depending on the needs of the particular condominium community.

When a condominium corporation receives a request from an owner to install any sort of device that will involve videoing of any activities on the common elements, the Corporation should review and consider the request in light of the following factors:

  1. Could others on the property have privacy concerns in relation to the proposed device?
  1. How do sections 97 and 98 of the Condominium Act (dealing with modifications to the common elements) apply to the proposal?
  1. Would it make more sense for the condominium corporation (rather than an owner) to install and control the images created by any such device?
  1. Have there been any security issues on the common elements that are of concern (i.e. thefts, break ins, etc.) and is the proposed device intended to address those concerns or otherwise fulfill any of the condominium corporation’s objects or duties?
  1. Would it make sense to hire a security expert to review the property and evaluate the safety and security risks?

IN SUMMARY: the installation of a video-doorbell (or other similar video imaging device) by an owner outside their unit amounts to videoing the common elements and can lead to violation of the privacy rights of others on the property. Such devices would also often involve a modification to the common elements (triggering the application of sections 97 and 98 of the Condominium Act).

In considering these issues, condominiums corporations should ensure that their privacy and surveillance policies are up-to-date, particularly in light of recent technologies and systems with video imaging and/or recording capabilities. In addition, if a condominium corporation decides to permit such video-recording systems on the property, the Board should consider whether the Rules should be amended to govern such installations.

Stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments in condominium law!