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A friend in the UK is sharing a property with several other people, which includes one couple (of both British and South American origins), which I believe are the landlords.

Yesterday, they decided to set up a webcam (including sound) inside the house, at the entrance, which they communicated to tenants in a WhatsApp message, saying it was for security reasons, especially as they had valuable furnishings in the house.

Putting the legality aside (as this is not the SE for that), my friend obviously has felt his privacy is being invaded, as while it is a public space in the house, it is still in his house.

The problem is how to relay this objection to the couple, especially since he feels they may simply "show him the door" and refuse to renew a contract for him to stay there.

My own suggestion was to offer to have every tenant contribute to a proper security camera monitored by a security company, but they could still "show him the door", and maybe not everyone would be willing to pay for that.

Disturbingly, the couple also made a remark based on the webcam footage about who a tenant brought home last night, and the comments didn't make it seem their concerns were about security nor unbiased.

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    Is it pointed at the entrance or inside the house? If it is pointed at the entrance to just record who comes and goes it would be no more evasive than a camera outdoors pointed at the entrance. – paparazzo Mar 16 '18 at 9:32
  • @paparazzo “set up a webcam inside the house” as it says in the question. – user1997744 Mar 16 '18 at 10:02
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    @Spagirl the camera is pointing to the door, but can pick up sounds in that general area. – user1997744 Mar 16 '18 at 10:11
  • @user1997744 Yes I know it is inside. My second sentence makes that clear. The question is which direction is it pointed. – paparazzo Mar 16 '18 at 10:11
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    I appreciate that you aren't asking about the legal aspects of this, but I don't think 'how to approach' the owners and 'what the law is' can sensibly be divorced here. I understand that people renting rooms in a landlords own home have less security of tenure than in other houses in multiple occupation, for obvious reasons. You friend should see if there is a local tenants rights organization, or speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau. As well as tenancy rights it is worth looking into Data Protection rights if the camera is recording. – Spagirl Mar 16 '18 at 11:16
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I know you said to leave the legal aspect aside, but if you are approaching someone to speak about a matter that may have a legal angle you really should know the facts first. Even if you aren't going to "get legal" in your approach, knowing your position will give you confidence in what you say. Also you never know where the other party will steer the conversation.

I'm no expert, but I am in the UK and I believe that a landlord is allowed to put a CCTV camera in a communal area (like a lobby, hallway) so long as (i) you know about it, and (ii) it isn't somewhere you have "exclusive access" to (it couldn't go in a shared bathroom, thankfully!)

So you (or your friend) are seeking an interpersonal way to regain some privacy (the removal of the camera) without losing their tenancy and without "getting legal".

Tricky.

If your friend voices his concerns and the landlord doesn't like it, he could as you say terminate his tenancy. This in itself may not be legal - I don't know - but you want to avoid this.

Similarly there may be some legitimate cause for complaint about the landlord's inappropriate comments over the footage he viewed. But again, if your friend raises that concern he could get kicked out and the only possible follow-up action would be legal.

Have your friend ask himself - would he be as concerned, or less concerned if the camera had been placed the other side of the door? The landlord would still be able to see pretty much the same things including who tenants brought home. Is it actually so bad?

If he is absolutely resolute about saying something and is prepared for any possible consequences, then the softest approach would be to raise the concern not as his own, but as if it he was doing the landlord a favour by pointing out possible consequences from other tenants. Perhaps say:

I am a little concerned about the camera at the entrance. Do you think that someone might complain about it encroaching on their privacy?

Then at least he may get to hear the landlord's thoughts on this.

If he has serious concerns about his landlord - that his behaviour viewing the CCTV footage is "creepy" then the best approach may be to look for alternative accommodation.

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    Good answer. The situation revolves heavily around the legal aspects, and the OP's friend really has little to no leverage in the situation. – AndreiROM Mar 16 '18 at 13:56
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Firstly, I am in Australia so I cannot answer specifically for laws in the UK. However, I am pretty confident in saying that your friend's landlords are definitely breaking the law.

Nationwide, generally you can't point a security camera in a location that a reasonable person would expect to be afforded privacy. In other words, it's okay to record the street directly outside your house, but focusing on a residential window or an enclosed backyard usually isn't allowed.

In some states here in Australia, there are additional laws about recording sound. For example, recording of private conversations without consent is prohibited. This can be a bit tricky to avoid; especially if you live in a tightly packed townhouse or apartment block. If you want to stick to the law, my advice would be to get the landlord to disable the audio and the camera. If they don't I am pretty sure you are well within your rights to lodge a complaint, with your relevant tenancy department.

Bear in mind that the landlord will probably have their own rules and regulations about security cameras in place, but they must be aligned with the law. And it must be in writing when signing the tenancy agreement. However, by law, all tenants have a right to their privacy and generally landlords are NOT allowed to put video cameras anywhere near or in view of a residence. Cameras are only possible in common grounds/body corporate grounds that belong to the body corporate and not one owner of a unit.

If the unit complex is owned by one person, even then the owner has to form a body corporate by inviting tenants of the unit as members, or to hire a body corporate firm that manages all of that. At least the owner/landlord cannot just do what they want without other people knowing about it.

On a final note, the landlord needs to apply common sense when setting up a camera, regardless of what the law says you can and cannot do. For example, you might be technically "allowed" to point your cameras towards a kids' playground, but doing so would be extremely stupid, and it opens them to litigation.

I would advise your friend to seek legal advice from a relevant tenants union and legal-aid center, and if the landlord still persists with their cameras, your friends can offer them a slightly higher bond for example, to cover some damage to their furniture. But even that is stupid because the landlord should have landlord's insurance to cover all of their house and contents.

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    Answer is still very useful, but legally speaking (even in Australia) it becomes a lot messier when the landlord lives with the tenant in that same house. Seeking legal advice is great but it would be worthwhile to keep in mind they may advise OP that the trouble it would take to do anything is not really worth it. – Jesse Mar 16 '18 at 5:24
  • Also, what I would worry about the most; is the landlord capable enough to have properly secured the webcam? I assume we are talking about an IP camera of some sort here, which are easily hacked if they are left to the default settings. – Robin Mar 16 '18 at 6:58
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    I don´t see how that has anything to do with the question or IPS. Cite: Putting the legality aside (as this is not the SE for that), [...] The problem is how to relay this objection to the couple – user6109 Mar 16 '18 at 9:21
  • I will definitely be checking the legality. I’m hoping for an IPS solution before escalating though, even if it is illegal, since a failed IPS solution won’t affect taking legal action after. – user1997744 Mar 16 '18 at 10:05
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    A failed IPS could certainly affect legal action. If the landlord evicts him that is a different legal situation. – paparazzo Mar 16 '18 at 10:19
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I get why the camera would be indoors as it is more secure indoors and not exposed to the weather.

The landlord clearly has little regard for privacy. Sound is not required for security. Comment on who someone is with has nothing to do with security.

Talk to the other people to find out if they have a problem. If they do have a problem agree on a position and how to approach the landlord. Not renew all leases is much different position for the landlord.

If he approaches the landlord on his own just be open:

To me the camera is an invasion of my privacy. Are there other options?

Based on they did it in the first place I doubt they are going to take it down if only one persons complains. Even if they say they will turn off sound you don't know if they did. I would want to see the microphone removed.

Legality is not the purpose of this site but it would be good to know where he stands legally before approaching the landlord on this matter.

Even if the current tenants agree to pay for external security for future tenants the landlord will need to charge them. So that is not an automatic yes.

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  • @editor The question was never revised regarding camera direction. – paparazzo Mar 16 '18 at 16:03

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