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Can your landlord legally install cameras where you live?

One man has a warning for other renters before they make a move
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 10:29 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Imagine if someone had access to watch you leave and come home every day, see your kids as they run around the yard, and monitor the visitors coming by.

19 Investigates discovered a debate over whether a landlord is justified in placing cameras on their rental properties and where they can legally record their tenants.

Can your landlord legally install cameras where you live? One man has a warning for other renters before they make a move.. watch this and then tune in tonight at 11.

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Jonathan Lindsey came upon an uncomfortable surprise while moving into a rental home on East 150th Street.

“There’s two cameras up front. There’s two cameras on the side of the house. There’s two cameras on the back of the house and there’s a camera on the garage,” he said. “We asked about the cameras but that was after we moved in.”

It was too late though, he says. The landlord wouldn’t give him access to the security system and refused to take her cameras down so Lindsey could put his own up.

“I feel like this was a prison,” he said. “she wanted to be the warden over us and actually collect our rent too.”

19 Investigates noticed other cameras on homes in the east side neighborhood, but the rental property has five cameras on it you can see from the road. So, we asked, is there a point when the recording becomes an invasion of privacy?

“It’s not ok for you to be looking at my kids on cameras,” Lindsey said.

Demari Muff is an eviction attorney who works with the Legal Aid Society in Cleveland.

He couldn’t speak about Lindsey’s case directly, but says privacy issues can be tricky.

“Yes, it’s not black and white,” Muff said.

According to a property management companies like one we found that has that has guidelines posted on its website, placing cameras inside the home where there is an expectation of privacy is not allowed.

Let’s be clear though, as far as we know, in Lindsey’s case the cameras were all outside the home. And, for the most part attorneys we talked to said outdoor surveillance legal and logical for landlords to monitor the exterior of their properties.

“There’s no specific law that says thou shall not have cameras in an apartment building or a unit,” Muff said.

Lindsey said, “From what I understand, she’s perfectly legal to have the cameras up.”

It can be considered harassment though, according to landlord organizations, if a landlord uses any camera to track a tenant or catch them in the act of violating a lease.

So how often does the landlord at the home Lindsey was renting check her cameras? Is someone monitoring them at all times?

We can’t say for sure, but within the 30 minutes of speaking with Lindsey outside the home, someone showed up and questioned what we were doing.

The man said the family asked him to come out and take a look at the house.

The man clearly didn’t want to talk to us though, and drove off once he found out we were working on a story.

Lindsey says something similar happened the week he moved in and unplugged the modem he didn’t know was going to his landlord’s wifi keeping these cameras on.

“She pitched a wang-dang-doodle about the cameras being unplugged,” he said.

He says someone showed up looking to get the cameras back online within a few hours-- kind of creepy right?

“I can understand someone being concerned about their property, but that’s why we have renters insurance,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey called 19 investigates, because at the very least, he wants to warn others about what can happen and what did happen to him.

“I want people to be aware, ask before you drop your money,” he said. Don’t make the same mistake I did because we were so gun-hoe in moving.”

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