Landlord's Guide Surveillance Cameras - article banner

When it comes to the security of a building, surveillance cameras are one of the most important additions. However, when you install them in a San Mateo rental property, you should keep certain important things in mind.

#1. Record tenants requires their permission

First of all, you cannot record your tenants without their permission. If you do, then you may be sued for it in a California court. Every state in the US has different laws with regard to privacy and surveillance cameras, and California’s laws are the most stringent ones among them. So, you should include a clause about it in the lease agreement and also inform your tenants about it verbally.

#2. Regarding the admissibility of recorded conversations in court

According to California Penal Code 632, the private conversations recorded over a surveillance camera are admissible in court only if they’re submitted after obtaining the permission of all parties involved in that conversation. Without such permission, you may not be allowed to submit a recorded conversation in court.

#3. Location of security cameras

Article I, Section I, Declaration of Rights in California law prevents landlords from putting a security camera in any such location where anyone would have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. For instance, you cannot put a camera in a location where it allows you to look into the house of a tenant. The only places where you can put up surveillance cameras are common areas like stairs, galleries between two apartments, and the entrance gate. In fact, even for installing a camera in these areas, you’ll need the permission of all tenants.

#4. Surveillance notices

Though there’s no rule about this in the state law, San Mateo property owners are encouraged to place surveillance notices in all those places where they install a camera. That way not just your tenants but also all those people who visit them will know that there is a surveillance camera in place, so they will be aware, and you’ll be free from lawsuits.

#5. Licenses required to install security cameras

Unless you’re going to install your camera in a public place, you don’t need a license to install the camera. Only those who put a surveillance camera in public areas are required to obtain a license from a state contractor. You just need the permission of your tenants, preferably in a written format.

#6. Installing security cameras in an apartment

Even if you’ve mentioned it in the lease agreement, you cannot put a surveillance camera inside an apartment because it is against the rules. As explained in #3 above, the law mandates that no camera can be installed in a location where someone has a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. Hence, even the clause where you mention it in the agreement will be null and void.

Installing surveillance cameras in your property is necessary for the safety of both your building as well as your tenants. However, you should do it in a manner that doesn’t violate state law. Otherwise, you may be at the receiving end of a lawsuit and harsh penalties.

A good option is to hire an experienced San Mateo property management company that can guide you through the process of planning and successfully installing surveillance cameras.

TenantsFounded in 1982 in Marin County, Bayside Management has expanded to offer full-service San Mateo property management to the entire San Francisco Peninsula. We manage single-family properties, multi-unit complexes, commercial properties, and homeowner associations. Contact us to discuss all your investment property-related queries.