So last week we made it clear that you Board can install a wall or fence around the community without a vote of the owners, even though it is a material alteration that usually requires a 75% vote of the unit owners. This is true, so long as the Board can establish that they are doing so in order to prevent a pattern of crime in the community.
Suppose the Board wants to go even further and now install security cameras that watch your every move while on the common areas? Can the Board do so without a vote of the owners?
Installation of security cameras on the common elements is a material alteration. Hickey v. The Georgian Condo. Ass’n, Inc., Arb. Case No. 97-0201, Summary Final Order (July 23, 1997); Terry v. Intercoastal Point Condo. Ass’n, Inc., Arb. Case No. 2008-06-3347, Final Order on Default (January 12, 2009). Therefore, unless the Association establishes an exception to the required owner approval for a material alteration, the Association violates the Declaration by not obtaining owner approval for the installation of the security cameras.
So, while a vote is not required for the installation of a fence or wall, a vote of the owners is required for the installation of security cameras. Interestingly enough, over the years there are many cases where the association is the one suing the owner for installation of a security camera on the common elements near their unit. Each time, the arbitrator has ruled that this is a material alteration requiring a unit owner vote. An exception to this was when an owner installed small cameras on their balcony that did not physically modify the building nor did the cameras palpably or perceptively vary or change the form, shape, elements or specifications of the building. Therefore, the cameras were held not to constitute a material alteration or addition.
Let’s say that approval is obtained from the community to install a security camera and a unit owner wants a copy of a surveillance recording from the association. Is that recording an “official record” of the association that the unit owner is entitled to obtain? Up until last year, the answer may have been yes, but not any longer as the access to records statute was amended to clearly state that only “written” records can be official records of the association.