Owning rental properties can require an enormous investment of time, money, and resources. Protecting that investment is vital and property owners typically want to utilize every tool at their disposal.
Security cameras can be one of the most effective types of devices to protect a Chicago investment property. Whether guarding against potential theft, vandalism, or simply ensuring that the current tenants are treating the property with respect, security cameras can be a very useful option. Security measures, such as cameras, may also serve as an advantage for attracting tenants who are interested in rental properties with ample security protections.
However, there are certain issues that every investment property owner should understand regarding the use of surveillance technologies before simply rushing out to spend extensive amounts of money on the requisite equipment. There are a range of relevant technical, ethical, and legal issues that must be taken into account.
Where are Security Cameras Allowed?
It should go without saying, but when renters are inside of a property, they have a reasonable (and legal) right to privacy. Security cameras cannot be placed in any area of a property where tenants should be able to presume privacy. For this reason, property owners may not place security cameras inside of their rental properties in any capacity.
However, areas outside of a rental house or apartment do not typically carry the same expectations of privacy, so installing security cameras outside of the property is usually acceptable.
Also, discussing the installation of cameras with neighbors beforehand is advisable, especially if the cameras will be close enough to capture and record any activity on their property (audio or video).
Security Cameras, Surveillance, and Violations of Privacy
While older models of security cameras were often equipped to provide only moving images, newer models frequently feature both visual and audio recording. The introduction of audio recording can complicate the question of when, where, and how it is legal to install surveillance cameras that might record the actions and conversations of individuals.
U.S. Federal laws require that when people are being recorded speaking, at least one of them must know they are being recorded. Rental property owners who choose to utilize cameras with audio recording should simply inform any potential tenants of the specifics of the locations and operations of their cameras in the leasing agreement.
That way, any tenants who choose to rent will do so with the full knowledge of the possibility that they will be recorded in specific areas on the property. In such a case, the leasing agreement can serve as evidence of consent.
The best rule of thumb is to review and fully understand the implications of local laws regarding landlord-tenant relationships. For Chicago, these laws are detailed in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.
Viable Alternatives to Security Cameras
If, after investigating the local laws, installation of a functional audio-visual surveillance system seems overly complex or inappropriate for the specific needs of your rental property, there are also several workable alternatives to security cameras.
Security Camera Imitations: If the primary goal of camera installation is the deterrence of potential theft or vandalism, a set of imitation security cameras can appear very convincing and serve as an effective preventive measure. Prospective thieves will be unlikely to take a chance by disturbing your property.
Security Lights: Motion-activated lighting offers another effective safety measure for both property owners and their tenants. Beyond warding off anyone who doesn’t belong near the property, these lights can save on energy costs because they aren’t constantly illuminated.
Wireless Alarm Systems: Older home security systems required extensive wiring and professional installation. But newer alarm systems have sensors and alarms that can be placed wherever they will be most advantageous by the buyer. Some models will even provide updates to the owner’s smartphone to alert them immediately in the case of any illicit activity.
For further information on rental property security and professional property management services, contact Landmark Property Management online or call today at 312-313-8553.