Residential Security Camera Laws | Everything You Need to Know Before You Instal a Camera

by Team MD


Installing a security system can help you feel more at ease in the comfort of your home. However, to avoid any troubles with the authorities, before you set up your security camera system, you have to know and understand the laws on outdoor surveillance cameras for home use. 


Outdoor security cameras

There are no laws that address the issue of the placement of outdoor surveillance cameras. This is why many buildings in urban areas feature cameras at every corner. Because public spaces are, well, public, installing cameras that cover these areas is considered legal as they do not infringe on one’s privacy. 

However, this argument does not hold if you decide to install a camera that captures the windows of someone’s bedroom or home in general. This is especially true in the case of cameras that are built to be capable of taking clear videos in the dark or those that have a zoom function. 

Even though federal law does not say anything on the topic of security camera placement, local law often covers this topic. Because local laws tend to change quite often, it is important that you consult with a local attorney before you make a purchase. If you fail to respect the law, you risk criminal prosecution. 


Can a security camera legally point at my home?

As you might expect, there are some circumstances when a security camera can point at one’s home. For instance, if your neighbor installs a camera that overlooks your property with the sole purpose of protecting his/her property, there is no law that can prohibit the installation provided that the camera is visible and not hidden. 

It is illegal for a surveillance camera to be pointed at your home if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy (such as your bathroom, bedroom, dressing room, etc). Similarly, the use of surveillance cameras is also illegal if the person who has installed them uses the videos to spy on somebody. 

If this is something that you are dealing with, it is perfectly legal for you to contact the authorities and to ask for law enforcement to interfere. In this situation, you are also allowed to claim harassment.


What to do if I feel uncomfortable about my neighbor’s security camera?

Having a surveillance camera pointed at your home 24/7 can be a rather nerve-racking situation, especially if you are not sure of the intentions of your neighbors. 

The first thing that you can do if you feel this way about one’s surveillance system is to talk to your neighbor calmly and respectfully. When you do so, you should clearly explain why you do not feel comfortable having the cameras pointed at your home, and you can ask the person to modify their line of sight.

If you hate confrontations of all sorts, another very practical solution is to plant trees or any other types of plants that will block the cameras from getting a good view of your property. 

Lastly, if you fail to get the expected response from the neighbor, one final thing that you can do is to call the police and your attorney to settle the disagreement legally. 


What to do if I want to install an outdoor camera?

Before you go ahead and install your brand-new camera security system, you have to take a step back and consider a couple of aspects. Firstly, you have to check the local laws to make sure that using outdoor cameras is legal in the city that you are living in.

Next, you have to inform your neighbors that you have a security system that implies the use of security cameras. As you do so, remember to clearly tell them the purpose of you installing the cameras so that you can successfully avoid any unhappy misunderstandings. 

If you are not that experienced when it comes to installing cameras, it is advisable that you hire professional help. This way, you can be sure that your cameras are installed correctly and that they won’t get damaged due to bad setting up procedures. 

Finally, make sure that the position of the cameras does not infringe on the expectations of privacy that your neighbors might have. You also have to pay extra attention to what you do with the footage so that it won’t fall in the wrong hands.


Is consent necessary?

As long as you do not violate your neighbors’ right to privacy, it is not legally obligatory for you to ask them for consent – that is, if you only use video surveillance and not audio surveillance. However, if you want to make sure that your neighbors won’t feel uneasy about the presence of the cameras, it might be a good idea to talk with them before you have the cameras installed. 


Inside cameras

As you might expect, installing indoor cameras is much trickier. Once again, it should be pointed out that cameras should only be installed in those areas of the home where people do not have an expectation of privacy.

In other words, while it is reasonable to have a camera set up in your hallway, installing one in one’s bedroom or restroom is illegal. Before you install any surveillance device, you should consult a local lawyer who specializes in the matter.


Do I have to register my cameras?

While this is not true in all states, some local municipalities require camera surveillance users to register their home security systems. In most cases, not the individual users, but rather the company that is installing the system is legally obligated to apply for the registration of the gear.

After the installation is complete, the user is the one who has to keep the registration valid. The main purpose why registrations are required has a lot to do with the reduction of the number of false alarms. 


Does audio surveillance fall under the same law?

The simple answer is no. Audio surveillance is regulated via Title 18, Section 2510 of the United States Code. According to the law, for an audio recording to be legal, all the parties have to consent to be recorded.

In some areas, if you are a party to the conversation, you can record that conversation, even if the person that you are talking to does not know that he/she is being recorded. However, this might depend from one state to the next, which is why it is imperative that, before you record anybody, you make sure that doing so is 100% legal in your area. It is illegal to record conversations that you are not a part of, especially when the parties have not agreed to be recorded.


Pros of using home security cameras

First things first, using home security cameras can help you feel secure in your house, as you are able to regularly check in to see the state of your property, even when you are not at home. Besides, you’ll receive alerts any time something unusual is happening. 

On top of that, studies have indicated that surveillance cameras can also work as deterrents for criminals. Yet, it should be added that, according to the experts, cameras alone might not protect you as expected. To get a better understanding of how a complete security system is better suited for your needs, you should contact a specialized business. 

Apart from just alerting you when a breaking occurs, as traditional monitoring systems do, camera systems can provide you with video evidence that can help the authorities catch those who trespass or damage your property faster and much more efficiently. 

The evidence that the recordings represent can also come in handy when you have to deal with your insurance company in case of an accident or break-in. 


Cons of using home security cameras

One of the biggest disadvantages of using home security cameras is the fact that installing such a system can get rather costly. Plus, liability is another factor that you should take into account. If one of your neighbors is unhappy with you installing cameras, and he/she feels like you are infringing their privacy, you might get into trouble.

This is why you must consult the local law before you set up the cameras. Even more so, if possible, you should talk to your neighbors and explain to them why you want to install the cameras. 

Some specific features that some of the newer models of cameras include such as face recognition are illegal in some states. Thus, make sure that you do your research before you make any decision.  

Finally, while cameras are helpful, they are also quite vulnerable. Thieves with experience can easily obscure, knockdown, or blackout your cameras in an attempt to hide their identity. At the end of the day, the process of repairing or replacing your cameras can prove rather costly. Moreover, most of these devices, as well as the wi-fi network that you are using to connect them to your phone are also vulnerable in case of a hacker attack or a power outage.


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