A Private Matter Communities Must Balance Privacy and Security

 The issue of intellectual property and an individual’s right to privacy has become a greater concern since more and more people  conduct their lives online—whether for banking, social media or dating. While the aforementioned generally  have security features encrypted in programming platforms, there remain  justifiable concerns as to what is actually protected. This heightened sense of  scrutiny results in ancillary privacy concerns, especially for those living in  community associations.  

 Whether it is the installation of security cameras, insider criminal activity or  environmental health concerns, both boards and residents have to be aware of  state laws and governing documents. Cases of privacy intrusion happen from  coast to coast. Last year, for example, a Florida family living in a penthouse  suite sued its condominium association for cell phone towers that were  installed on their roof without permission causing loud noises and health  risks. In Hawaii, a security guard was arrested for copying residents’ keys and stealing credit card and banking information.  

 “Any rule adopted by a board must be reasonable and rationally related to the  objective to be served. Papalexiou v. Tower West Condo, 167 N.J. Super.  516,526, 401 A2d 280 (Ch. 1979),” explains attorney Anne P. Ward of the law firm of Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, & Plaza, P.C in Newark. “It is a given that owners of condominium units must relinquish “…a certain degree of freedom of choice which they might otherwise enjoy with  separate privately owned property”. Id. A “balancing test” is used weighing the rights of an owner against those of the entire community  to determine the reasonableness of any rule.”  

 The “Rules” of Privacy

 In all states, a person has the right against unreasonable, substantial or  serious interference with his or her privacy. Above and beyond this mandate,  there are federal and state electronic records laws, health privacy laws, laws  regulating what information may be released by the government and by employers  and laws regarding the unauthorized use of a person’s name or image.  

 One of the perks of living in a condominium or townhome community is that it  offers residents the ability to build credit and have control of their home  without the headaches of funding and maintaining a single-family home. But  shared community living does possess certain restrictions and questions  regarding privacy. While residents may think that their unit and information is  off limits to members of the board and management, this is not always the case.  “Most governing documents such as the master deed, declaration, or bylaws give  the association a right of access to the unit or dwelling for maintenance,  inspection, and other related reasons,” says attorney Mark Imbriani of Somerville. “However, except in the case of an actual emergency involving a real and  immediate threat to person or property, the right of access can only be  exercised on notice and with the owner’s consent. Entering a unit without permission is an invasion of the owner’s privacy.”  


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  • I'd like to see the opinions of legal experts regarding boards that use the surveillance system to spy on residents they do not like, attempting to "catch" them at some behavior which may be against the building rules. Is it legal to spy on residents at all? If so, is it legal to spy on certain people and not others? And what are their opinions of board members soliciting staff to make complaints about certain, specific individuals?