As the technological landscape shifts and high-end tech gets more and more affordable, the desire for security cameras in and around homes has exploded. As you have witnessed, all the big-name tech companies are in the game and these high-definition cameras can move, record video and audio to the cloud, and notify the homeowner whenever there is motion. The security features these cameras and video doorbells offer are admirable but they do cause some potential issues for the real estate industry that should be discussed. Let's think about some of the issues at hand.
Legal ImplicationsSome cameras are visible, and some are less so, but the main purpose of the camera is to record events that take place in front of those cameras. When the property gets listed on the MLS® system, it becomes a venue for members of the public to enter, and the implications of having cameras do change. In Canada, it is illegal to secretly record potential buyers in a home which would be considered an illegal collection of consumers' personal information. This would be a violation of federal privacy legislation, but there are potentially more serious breaches of the Criminal code where a private conversation is recorded, such as between spouses, or between agent and client. This would also apply to external cameras such as doorbell cameras or floodlight cameras despite those being outside of the home.
Working with SellersAs professional REALTORS® are out in the marketplace and meeting with potential seller clients, it's so important in this moment of cameras everywhere, to have the conversation about what the seller intends to do with cameras in and around their home. Seeing as cameras may or may not be visible in or around the home, it's best practice for a professional REALTOR® to ask the question every time as part of their listing process. Assuming sellers have no intention of removing cameras for the sake of showing the home, the seller should be informed about the potential liability that the cameras could raise if they haven’t obtained the consent of the people entering the property. Perhaps the simplest way to inform folks about the cameras is to post a sign on the property or in the front entrance for example stating that there are active cameras in the property and that they may be recorded. If they choose to enter after reading the notice there is a level of implied consent and a low chance of a privacy complaint.
Working with BuyersThis is so important to think through because it’s a virtual guarantee that the buyers have not considered the possibility of them being monitored and recorded in the homes they visit. The best practice would be to raise awareness of the issue at the first consultation meeting between the REALTOR® and the potential buyers and determine their level of concern. If they are extremely concerned, their REALTOR® could ask the question of each seller before showing the property and allow the buyer to decide whether or not they want to view that home. Alternately, if the buyer is not as concerned about this issue, a professional Realtor® should remind their buyer clients at the beginning of each showing tour that they may be recorded from the moment they arrive at the home, even at the street. Because of this, clients should save their excitement, criticisms, or comments about the property for a private conversation with their Realtor® away from the home so as not to potentially hinder any future negotiations.
I think it is safe to say that the trend of increased personal video surveillance in homes will continue to grow, and the expansion of the affordability, types and accessibility of cameras will not slow down. This reality is something that should cause some consideration for all of us as homeowners, consumers, and citizens when we think about whether or not we would be comfortable knowing that the video and audio of our conversation were being recorded without our knowledge. However, if given the courtesy of disclosure of that fact before the recording, I would certainly feel more comfortable personally, and that knowledge would likely help me guard my words a little more as well.
Provincial Practice Advisor
Bryan has many years of experience in the real estate industry including over 10 years as a former broker in the Edmonton Region.
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