Legal Risks for Home Sellers who Have Home Surveillance Systems
What is a Home Surveillance System?
More and more homeowners have installed surveillance systems in their homes, sometimes without realizing it.
Most people probably know that home security systems having cameras and microphones are surveillance systems. How many of us think of the Google Home or Amazon Alexa “smart speakers” as surveillance systems?
According to Dictonary.com, “Surveillance” is a noun, defined (in part) as: “Continuous observation of a place, person, group or ongoing activity in order to gather information:
Video cameras used for covert surveillance.
See also electronic surveillance.”
The camera-enabled security systems mentioned above definitely meet that definition. A quick review of some online comparisons of the Home and Alexa products make them seem like good candidates as well. Each of them is (as of this writing) “Always listening.” At least one of them also has the capacity for synched audio playback to other devices.
Legal Risks for Home Sellers and their Agents.
So, what, you might ask?
Each of the types of systems and products mentioned above can be used to invade the privacy of prospective home buyers. Eavesdropping on their conversations as they tour a home is, at the very least, extremely tacky. It probably also lends itself to a personal injury lawsuit, and, depending on the law of the state in which the home is located, it could even be a crime.
These systems might also violate laws that require the consent of a party before one records that party’s conversations.
Risk Management Tips for Real Estate Professionals Concerning These Devices.
A good risk management practice for listing agents is to include in the listing agreement a provision requiring the seller to disclose the existence of such devices and to agree to disable (or at least turn off the sound recording capability of) the devices during showings.
Buyer’s agents would be wise to consider establishing a practice of:
- Informing clients at the outset of that any home they visit might have a surveillance system; and
- Getting a written assurance (at least via email) from the listing agent that either (a) there is no surveillance system, or (b) that the seller will disable it during showings.
Please note: the above post contains educational information. It is not intended as legal advice. Engage an attorney who is licensed in your state to get advice on dealing with any specific legal issue.
© 2018 Michael S. Oswald