Being a property owner comes with big risks – you just never know when your property might be the target of destruction by a tenant or another party. You can’t always know how your tenants are going to treat your property, even when they seem like upstanding citizens. All it takes is one incident and you could be in the hole for thousands of dollars in repairs.
For this reason, you might be wondering if you should install security cameras on your rental property to protect your investment (and protect your tenants from theft, vandalism, and even violence). Considering many businesses often fail to install security cameras and regret it later after a crime has taken place, the fact that you’re thinking ahead to protect your property is smart. However, before you install those security cameras, you should familiarize yourself with the laws that govern what you can and can’t do with security cameras in Texas.
There is no overriding Federal law concerning audio and video recording, and laws vary between states and can even change from city to city. You should always talk to your lawyer before installing any type of recording device. In the meantime, if you’re curious to know what your options are for securing your rental property, there are a few different ways you can do it.
Security cameras no longer require the monotonous task of changing a tape every few hours in order to prevent a lapse in coverage. Today, there are cameras on the market, like the Nest Cam made by Google, that are specifically designed to capture both audio and video 24 hours a day.
These are the types of cameras many people are choosing to install in their homes to monitor children and pets, as well as protect themselves in the case of a break-in. These cameras work on Wi-Fi and store recordings as digital files, so no tapes are necessary. Some services store the recordings in the cloud for a period of 24 hours at no charge and will increase the amount of time for a small fee. If you know how to connect the camera to your own high-capacity storage device, you could set it up for yourself for free, provided you know how to manage and maintain the system.
Are Wi-Fi cameras legal to install on rental property?
As a property owner, you can install Wi-Fi cameras, as long as you use them in accordance with Texas wiretapping laws. You won’t be able to install security cameras inside of your units, but you can typically install them outside, as long as tenant windows and doors are not in view.
Record only in places with a reasonable expectation of privacy
This thorough article on TheWireCutter.com outlines the general laws that govern both video and audio recording, noting that it is illegal to record video in a place where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bedroom or a bathroom. In some cases, if a common area like a living room is temporarily being used as a bedroom for a guest, then you can’t record in that living room. However, you can record video and audio in public places where people don’t have any expectation of privacy. What this means for you as a property owner is you can install security cameras in most public areas outside of your rental units.
Privacy is serious business
There have been numerous complaints about Airbnb hosts who have sometimes disclosed cameras to their guests, and sometimes not. Airbnb has a strict policy that requires hosts to disclose the location of any and all security cameras to their guests, and they will investigate any complaints if a hidden camera is discovered. As one guest found out, the company is so committed to maintaining privacy that if a hidden camera is discovered, Airbnb would put that guest up in a hotel for the rest of their stay and remove (and ban) the host from the website.
Where to install cameras in multi-dwelling buildings
If you own an apartment building, you can install security cameras in the public walkways, in the courtyard, by the pool, in the laundry room, in the clubhouse, and even in the parking lot. Just make sure your tenants’ privacy is protected and their doors and windows are not in the camera’s view.
Where to install cameras in single occupancy units
If you rent out a single-family home, condo, or townhouse, it may not feel as urgent to install security cameras. Your tenants may have their own security system in place. This doesn’t mean you can’t install your own but considering that you can only install them in public areas, and a house doesn’t have as much public area as an apartment building, your tenants might feel weird being videotaped as they pull in the driveway.
Even though you have the right to install security cameras in accordance with state law, talk with your tenant before you do anything, just to make sure they’re on the same page as you regarding your intentions. You don’t want to risk having expensive security cameras destroyed because your tenant feels blindsided by your decision to install them.
Stream your security cameras to your tenants
Another wonderful idea to keep theft down and keep your tenants feeling safe is to stream your security videos over the internet on a dedicated website (with a secure tenant-only login) that allows your tenants to check on their cars whenever they want. Letting your tenants view your security feeds is a great way to decrease thefts from other tenants who know there could be multiple pairs of eyes watching at any given time.
Studies have shown that the efficacy of security cameras depends heavily on how they are setup and monitored. When criminals don’t think anyone’s watching, they’re more likely to commit a crime. If you have an apartment building full of tenants who have live access to the video feed of the parking lot, any tenant considering breaking into another tenant’s car is going to think twice.
Let Green Residential help
It’s hard work maintaining your property and handling the needs of your tenants. That’s why most property owners hire a property management company to handle the day-to-day tasks that can be stressful.
Green Residential is a professional property management company located in Houston that can help you with everything from tenant screening to repairs to maintenance. Contact us today for a free analysis to see what we can do for you.