The use of surveillance cameras by landlords may be legal. It also may constitute tenant harassment. Whether surveillance cameras are permissible depends on many factors, including location and use.
Tenants have a right to privacy in their home. Landlords cannot use cameras to track a tenant’s personal life. Pointing cameras at a tenant's private space can be a breach of a tenant’s quiet enjoyment or tenant harassment. Landlords have a duty to provide tenants with a safe environment. Thus, landlords can justify placing cameras in common areas. Common areas include hallways, laundry rooms, and shared entryways. This is different from cameras aimed at a tenant's front door, windows or, of course, inside a tenant's unit.
Common areas in residential hotels and boarding houses are a bit different. Tenants in those places still have a right to privacy inside their own rooms and bathrooms. But, living rooms, kitchens, and hallways are common areas and thus may be subject to surveillance.
As discussed, landlords can justify putting cameras in common areas in the name of safety. Yet, a landlord's use of surveillance cameras can still constitute harassment. Examples of harassment may include using cameras to question a tenant about their guests, lifestyle or dating life. Another consideration is why the landlord installed cameras in the first place. Were they installed in response to reports of break ins? Or in retaliation for a tenant's complaints about defective conditions? Are the cameras only aimed at one unit or are they used in the same manner throughout the building?
Tenants dealing with harassment should document the problem. One way for tenants to do this is to write their landlord to request the cameras removal. While a landlord may not change their behavior, writing a letter - or letters - can be very useful. Writing letters creates a record that the issue exists, the tenant has notified the landlord of the problem, and that the behavior is harmful. Letters are also helpful if a tenant ever needs to bring a case against a landlord for harassment. For more information on communicating with landlords take a look at our blog post on the topic.
Keep in mind that refusing to remove cameras may be within the landlord’s rights. Tenant harassment, but, is always against the law. If you are being harassed or if you aren't sure whether the landlord's use of cameras crosses a line, talk to a tenant attorney about your options.
Recovered on behalf of a group of 30 tenants living in an SRO in San Francisco who were living with horrendous conditions in their rent controlled apartments, including rodents, bedbugs, mold, water leaks and harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of three families living in a building in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood who were forced to live with substandard conditions for years as a result of their landlord’s negligence, including issues with lack of heat, lack of hot water and cockroach/rat infestations.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a couple living in a rent-controlled home in the outer Sunset neighborhood. Our clients were forced to vacate after the landlord served them with an Owner Move-In Eviction Notice. After the landlords failed to move into the property, our clients filed suit for wrongful eviction.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco tenant in Russian Hill. Tenant was forced to vacate her illegal apartment in retaliation for reporting unlawful rent increases to the San Francisco Rent Board.Read More
Recovered for a single long-term tenant in San Francisco. Our client was forced to move out of his apartment as a result of extreme landlord harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of three long-term tenants in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood who were constructively evicted due to noise and nuisance conditions created by their downstairs neighbors, which the owner refused to address.Read More
Recovered on behalf of elderly, disabled tenant who was forced to move out of her rent-controlled San Francisco apartment of 50 years after landlord/owner failed to resolve numerous building code violations that remained outstanding for over a decade.Read More
Recovered on behalf of seven tenants living in a makeshift boarding house in East Palo Alto.Read More
Recovered on behalf of two former San Francisco tenants who were evicted via an Owner Move-In Eviction and owner failed to occupy the unit as her primary place of residence.Read More
Recovered on behalf of an elderly long-term tenant who was forced to vacate her long San Francisco apartment as a result of her landlord’s refusal to address longstanding defective conditions, including lack of heat, mold, rodent infestations, and defective plumbing. Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco tenant who was forced to vacate his home as a result of ongoing, disruptive construction and the owners’ refusal to provide him with alternative housing. Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco family that was constructively evicted from their home in the Richmond District as a result of unlawful rent increases, defective conditions and tenant harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a tenant living in an illegal “in-law” unit. In this case, a new owner purchased the building and then demolished our client’s unit without permits while she was displaced for seismic retrofitting.Read More
Recovered on behalf of two long term San Francisco tenants who were fraudulently evicted from their home of over twenty years under the pretext of an owner move-in eviction.Read More
Recovered for tenant who was injured when their stairway railing collapsed at the tenant’s Mission District apartment building.Read More
Recovered in action for a group of tenants forced to vacate their San Francisco apartment house due to severe habitability defects including mold and water leaks.Read More
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