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Subject: Resident Security Camera
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MkM1
(Minnesota)

Posts:4


09/13/2019 12:59 PM  
Looking for some feedback or guidance on an issue with our HOA. About 4 years ago, we mounted an ARLO security camera underneath our deck to point towards our lower-level door. (Our unit has both a upper level deck and lower level patio.) To mount the camera, you insert three screws to hang the base and then the camera clips into the base. No wires - the cameras runs on batteries. As stated, the camera is pointed inward towards our door.

Presently, the CC&Rs have no provisions or guidelines for use of security cameras by homeowners. So, the HOA has decided homeowners need to seek approval from the Architectural Control Committee (ACC), because apparently inserting 3 screws underneath our deck is considered the same as "an addition, alteration, repairs and replacement involving the exterior of a homeowner’s unit." (CONTROL is the appropriate description for this committee and the jerk who chairs it!)

They have demanded non-approved homeowners to take down their cameras. They have also put a moratorium on approving any future homeowners' requests to mount their cameras. We received our demand letter yesterday - advising that we are in violation of not seeking their approval. We have until the end of month to take the camera down or be fined.

My questions are:

*** Why does mounting a camera base require approval but hanging up plant hangers, wind chimes, Christmas decorations, thermometers or outdoor door decorations do not? Since the HOA currently does not have a policy on security cameras, it cannot fine us for the camera itself - so they have to hang their hat on not obtaining approval. The other items do not require approval, so why would the base of the camera?

*** Since they have put a moratorium on approvals and have demanded we take our camera down, can we hold the HOA liable should anything happen to our home in the meantime? We have heard that there are cases where HOAs were responsible, but I have yet to find any.

*** We have had the camera up for 4+ years. We even have the ACC Chair on camera from a few years ago; he knew it was there - nothing was said. All of sudden the Board has decided to do something. We were not violating any CC&R provisions; the HOA did not require approval before. Yet, now it does. For the HOA experts on this forum, does this sound OK?

The back of our unit faces a major street in the subdivision. Our camera has picked up some weird folks roaming around at night. Since we don't know how long the moratorium will be in place, we are thinking about speaking to our attorney about this. But before doing so, I am curious what the folks on this forum think.

Thank you in advance for any feedback or comments.
ChadH3
(Alabama)

Posts:12


09/13/2019 1:23 PM  
That would not hold up in court if they do fine you and you wanted to fight it. If it were me, I'd leave it up.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3362


09/13/2019 2:58 PM  
Hang a plant there. Put the arlo in the plant.
WindyM1
(Florida)

Posts:2


09/23/2019 1:23 PM  
They do not have authority (CC&R)to enforce and thus I would leave it and ignore their tactics. Additionally, I would sit back and let out the rope as it is likely that their "persuasion" methods will include exorbitant fines, compound interest, and the oh-so threatening letters. That should be enough for your community to be persuaded that the inmates are running the asylum.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/23/2019 1:55 PM  

Obviously, somebody complained about a camera (not necessarily yours, just a camera) and the Board is taking action on all (which is the proper thing to do).

Posted By MkM1 on 09/13/2019 12:59 PM

My questions are:

*** Why does mounting a camera base require approval but hanging up plant hangers, wind chimes, Christmas decorations, thermometers or outdoor door decorations do not? Since the HOA currently does not have a policy on security cameras, it cannot fine us for the camera itself - so they have to hang their hat on not obtaining approval. The other items do not require approval, so why would the base of the camera?




Technically, you made a change to the exterior of your home.
Most Declarations have language that specifies any exterior change must be approved.



Posted By MkM1 on 09/13/2019 12:59 PM

My questions are:
*** Since they have put a moratorium on approvals and have demanded we take our camera down, can we hold the HOA liable should anything happen to our home in the meantime? We have heard that there are cases where HOAs were responsible, but I have yet to find any.




This would require legal advice.



Posted By MkM1 on 09/13/2019 12:59 PM

My questions are:
the HOA did not require approval before. Yet, now it does. For the HOA experts on this forum, does this sound OK?




Mind you, I disagree with your boards decision (on how they are handling the issue).

That said, what is the basis that the HOA didn't require approval previously (newsletter article, etc.)?

Choosing not to enforce previously doesn't mean that approval wasn't required.


Posted By MkM1 on 09/13/2019 12:59 PM

My questions are:
The back of our unit faces a major street in the subdivision. Our camera has picked up some weird folks roaming around at night. Since we don't know how long the moratorium will be in place, we are thinking about speaking to our attorney about this. But before doing so, I am curious what the folks on this forum think.




Good idea to seek legal advice.
Also see if you can get a letter from the local police/sherriff for their opinion on having security cameras.

My suggestion, take a still of the video, the opinion from the police and include them with a request for a that camera (the still shows the direction it's pointing). Make sure that you specify that you are not asking for special approval, just asking for approval of what others have.

Then see what they say.

While waiting, put the camera on the inside pointing toward the door.


BTW, I use arlo cameras at my 2nd home.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/23/2019 1:57 PM  
Posted By WindyM1 on 09/23/2019 1:23 PM

They do not have authority (CC&R)to enforce and thus I would leave it and ignore their tactics.




Windy,

What is the basis for this opinion?

Did you read their covenants?
Did you do research on the laws of Minnesota (where the OP is from)?
Did you find legal cases on this issue?

If you can provide the basis for your opinion, that would aid the OP a lot.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/23/2019 1:58 PM  
Posted By ChadH3 on 09/13/2019 1:23 PM
That would not hold up in court if they do fine you and you wanted to fight it. If it were me, I'd leave it up.




Chad,

What is the basis for your opinion?
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/23/2019 2:14 PM  
Mk,

Here is some good info from a legal forum (although not specific to Minnesota):

Can an HOA decline a request to install surveillance cameras?

From that forum:

I would resubmit my request, inform them that you recently had a break in and insist that you are not asking for a policy determination, but simply a method to protect yourself from intruders. You have a right to protect yourself and your property. If this does not work, hire an HOA attorney to advise you of the best way to proceed and possibly to educate the Board.


Additional info:

Can homeowners prevent neighbors from installing security cameras? From Florida

TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/23/2019 2:16 PM  
Oh, one other avenue if the request for approval doesn't work would be the media.

These type of stories are gold to the media.
MkM1
(Minnesota)

Posts:4


09/23/2019 3:27 PM  
Thanks Everyone!

Update: We wrote the Board advising them that according to the HOA Compliance Policy, homeowners are to receive two warning letters AND a meeting with the Board before any assessment of fines. So we considered the Notice they sent us the FIRST warning letter.

We also let them know that we disputed the violation since the CC&Rs presently do not restrict the use of security cameras by homeowners. We focused on the “mounting” of the base of the camera - which consisted of inserting three screws - no wires; no altering of the exterior. The HOA permits homeowners to insert screws to hang up flagpoles, plant hangers, wind chimes, and some of the ugliest outdoor decorations without requiring authorization from the ACC. So why is the base of the camera (which is no bigger than a beverage coaster) any different? We asked them if we took down the base, hung up plant and put the camera in the plant if that would resolve the issue.

We reminded them that if they demanded we take it down, they could possibly be liable for anything that happens to us or our home. (We have footage of ppl walking back in our area in the middle of the night.). We told them we are entitled to due process and will not be taking the camera down until after our hearing with the Board.

We have had this camera up for at least four years. The ACC goes around annually to do exterior checks and write up homeowners when things need to be fixed. They have never said anything to us about the camera until now.

Just seems like it is something they suddenly decided they want to control and instead of doing it the right way - writing and passing an actual security camera policy - they attempted to use a short cut and now require ACC authorization even though the camera base has been up for 4 years.


Anyway, we will await warning letter #2. Hopefully, the HOA will just drop it and pass a dang policy.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/23/2019 3:33 PM  
download your videos of people walking in the yard.
You may need that to push your point.
MkM1
(Minnesota)

Posts:4


09/23/2019 3:56 PM  
We hope it doesn’t come to that as we have thousands of video stills - it will be tough to find them.

The HOA is in the process of crafting a policy. The problem is they decided we needed prior ACC approval - that is the part we disagree with. Until they have an actual policy, they have put a moratorium on approvals. We told them that we would go through the approval process now - but we did not hear back.

They know we will hire an attorney if needed. We have done it before when they decided they couldn’t help us with a city permit issue - when the HOA was the only one that could work with the city. The HOA is cheap and will do anything not spend $$ on attorney’s fees. It is a self-managed HOA, so truly a bunch of volunteers run the show.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/23/2019 5:47 PM  
Posted By MkM1 on 09/23/2019 3:56 PM

The problem is they decided we needed prior ACC approval - that is the part we disagree with.





I understand this is your issue. I also understand your reasoning (thanks for providing it).

Regardless of your reasoning or the boards reasoning, what actually matters is what is written in the covenants (the contract everyone agreed to comply with when purchasing their homes within the community).


Posted By MkM1 on 09/23/2019 3:56 PM

It is a self-managed HOA, so truly a bunch of volunteers run the show.




Self managed or self managed with assistance of a management company, a bunch of volunteers will always run the show.
Since apathy is typically high within associations, those who are willing to run will be the those who run the show. It won't matter what their experience or motives are. If others won't toss their hat into the ring, then those who do will be those who serve.




Since you have already communicated with the board, it may be too late for this. You might want to ask the board (or review the minutes) to discover what brought the issue to a head. It can provide insight in how to approach the board to move things in the direction you believe they should go.
SamE2
(New Jersey)

Posts:162


09/24/2019 5:10 AM  
When I started reading your post I thought you were wrong and the HOA was right but by the time I got to the end I changed my mine. I don't see how the HOA can say you can't mount the camera but you can mount decorations, flag poles and the like. I do think they might be able to prohibit the mounting of anything outside without approval but that is not what they are doing.
MkM1
(Minnesota)

Posts:4


09/24/2019 6:24 AM  
BINGO!!!

Why are the three screws mounting a camera base different than the three screws that mount an ugly outdoor decoration? Why does one require ACC approval and the other does not?

The CC&Rs permit outdoor decorations to be hung without ACC approval so in our opinion the camera base is tantamount to that - a decoration. Heck, you can't even see it from the street - it is in the corner. It has done NOTHING to add or alter the exterior of ours or our neighbor's homes.

No policy restricting security camera use - so if they push us - we will use the same three screws to hang a plant hanger, put an ugly fake plant in the plant hanger and then put the camera in the plant.

I think what brought this to the Board's attention is the RING doorbell and privacy concerns. It then morphed into all resident security cameras. Installed RING doorbells have been approved - probably realizing that it would be quite the effort for homeowners to uninstall the ones already in place. However those of us with unapproved outside cameras have been told to take them down - period - until the HOA has a security policy. Who knows how long that will take.

I am sure most residents who have received a demand letter just acquiesced and did what the HOA demands. Not us...we have challenged them before and prevailed; we will again. The ACC chair is rude and condescending - he has no business interacting with residents. I have been on the receiving end of his condescension. Did not report it because what would be the point. Apparently being volunteer is a "get out of jail free" card for rude behavior and residents just have to deal with it.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


09/24/2019 7:46 AM  
Posted By MkM1 on 09/24/2019 6:24 AM

Apparently being volunteer is a "get out of jail free" card for rude behavior and residents just have to deal with it.




If you are so concerned about volunteers, petition the court for a receiver.
If the court approves, you and your neighbors can (and will) split the cost of their salary (typically 50K year in our area) in addition to your regular assessments. The receiver reports to the courts and not the membership. The receiver can determine your reserves are too low and increase assessments to fully fund without a membership vote (just needs court approval). The receiver can determine things need repaired and issue special assessments to pay for it. All this with the goal of being able to hold elections and have the membership vote for a board made up of volunteers.

BTW, I've seen many "professional" individuals are rude.

This is a character flaw of the individual. It has nothing to do with volunteers.
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