MBCM Preston

A close eye on surveillance disputes

A close eye on surveillance disputes

“A number of owners approached me raising concerns that a recently installed camera breached their privacy and asked for advice on their rights. I immediately looked into the situation”

Gary Howell, MBCM Strata Specialists Preston and Reservoir.

In MBCM’s experience of managing thousands of properties collectively across Australia we can definitively say that nearly every property experiences disputes amongst residents. This is just the nature of multiple people, with varied concerns and lived experiences, having to share common property in apartment and building complexes. As such, we understand the importance of swift conflict resolution and the key role that Owners Corporation (OC) Managers are required to play in such conflicts where neutrality, relevant information, common sense and a calming presence are absolutely essential.

One such conflict arose in a building managed by our Preston and Reservoir office when an owner had installed a security camera on the fascia of their carport overlooking the common driveway. A number of owners raised concerns that the camera breached their privacy and asked for advice on what were their rights. One owner was particularly concerned as the camera appeared to look directly over their carport and private garden area.

Gary Howell, the Owners Corporation Manager for this property, immediately got to work investigating the matter.

“After reviewing the Owners Corporation Act and Regulations, I determined that the lot owner did not require permission to install a camera on private property that overlooks common property.  However, permission is required to install a camera on common property,” noted Gary.
When looking further into the concerns of some residents, we sought advice from MBCM’s experienced legal panel and found that the Surveillance Devices Act (1999) stated that a camera could not be used “to record visually or observe a private activity to which the person is not a party.” Whilst this may be difficult to demonstrate, a case could be made if the camera is pointing at a private property, for example an enclosed garden or an entrance door. However, Gary also noted that “surveillance issues relating to individual privacy are unlikely to be a Common Property matter, and need to be addressed or reported to the Authorities directly by the impacted individual.”
With these two pieces of legal information at hand, Gary was able to act swiftly in notifying the owner of the carport they needed to remove the camera as they had breached the Owners Corporation Model Rules by installing the camera on common property without permission.   

Gary worked with one concerned resident to consider screening options that would make them feel more comfortable regardless of whether they decided to escalate the matter to the authorities. He also advised the other residents that if they were still concerned about the new camera position they were within their rights to contact the Police directly to report it.

Gary’s final comment on the matter “it is most important in my experience, to look into these matters quickly and not leave these disputes to fester amongst individual owners”.

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