Security Camera Videos as Official Records of a Condominium or Homeowners’ Association
Ramon C. Palacio, Esq.
Condominium and homeowners’ associations frequently install security cameras at various locations throughout the association property. In some instances, the cameras are monitored live, and images are recorded, and in other instances the images are simply recorded and available for retrieval in the event circumstances warrant their review. In most cases, the videos are automatically overwritten at certain intervals.
Occasionally, an association may receive a request from a unit or parcel owner (who we’ll simply refer to as an owner for our purposes here), to video images for a specified period of time. This period may span a few hours on a specified date, or could potentially span many hours over many days, which can be a time-consuming and costly undertaking for an association. The question then arises as to whether an association has an obligation to retrieve and make these video images available to an owner when requested.
Inspection of Official Records
An association has a statutory obligation to make its official records available for inspection when requested by an owner. The question, then, is whether security camera video images are official records within the meaning of the statute, and the short answer is, it depends.
Florida Statutes §718.111(12) and §720.303, for condominiums and for homeowners’ associations, respectively, each set forth an association’s obligations with respect to inspections of official records. Both statues identify specific items as official records, such as: a copy of the association’s governing documents; rules and regulations; minutes of meeting of the board and of the owners; and contracts; among many others.
Additionally, Florida Statutes Chapters 718 (the “Condominium Act”) and 720 (the “Homeowners Association Act”) both include a “catchall” provision in the list of official records, reading as follows: “All other written records of the association not specifically included [in the above] which are related to the operation of the association.” (emphasis added). Notably, the word “written” was inserted in the above language in the Condominium Act in 2015, while as to the Homeowners Association Act, it has existed since the provision was originally enacted in 2004. The words “written record” are likely determinative here, as is the status of the video images at the time of the request.
Note that Florida Administrative Code Rule 61B-23.002(7)(b), expanding on the statutory official records provision, adds as an official record: “Audio and video recording made by the board or committee at their direction.” Although there’s an argument that all security camera video images were made at the direction of the board of directors at some point, that is, beginning on the date the security cameras were installed, for example, this does not seem to be the legislative intent of this Rule and there does not appear to be a controlling DBPR position to the contrary. Therefore, we will not delve further into this Rule in this discussion.
Declaratory Statement from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“DBPR”)
In 2006, the DBPR issued a declaratory statement on this question in Park Lake Towers Condominium Association, Inc., Docket No. 2006007766. Although the declaratory statement is binding only as to the association that requested it, it is nonetheless helpful for our analysis and discussion here.
As indicated above, the catchall provision applicable to condominiums prior to 2015 (when the Park Lake Declaratory Statement was issued) did not include the word “written” and read simply: “All other records of the association not specifically included in the foregoing which are related to the operation of the association.”
The short facts in Park Lake were as follows: 1) The association maintained security camera video images on a hard drive and they were automatically overwritten every thirty days; 2) unrelated to any incident, an owner requested to inspect certain video images; and 3) so that the video images would not be overwritten, the association saved them and then sought a declaratory statement from the DBPR. The DBPR held that because the association had “copied” the video images captured by the association’s security cameras, and those images were “related to the operation of the association”, they were in fact official records available for inspection upon an owner’s request. Also of interest, the DBPR specifically stated that it was not addressing “a situation where an association did not secure a permanent copy of the video images that are routinely ‘dumped’ after 30 days.”
Thus, while the statutory language at that time was broader, that is, the catchall provision was not limited to written records, and therefore could have arguably encompassed video images simply resting (albeit temporarily) on a hard drive, the determinative factor in Park Lake seems to be that the association “copied” the video images. This, apparently, is what led the DBPR to deem those copied video images an official record, and the DBPR specifically stated that it was not opining on whether those video images that were not copied were or were not also official records.
Applying the facts of Park Lake to the present statutory language, therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that security camera videos, while existing solely and temporarily on the media on which recorded, are not written records of the association and therefore not official records within the meaning of the relevant statute. Conversely, in circumstances where an association retrieves the electronically recorded video images and prints any images therefrom (thereby creating a written record), the images would likely be deemed official records which an association would be obligated to make available for inspection and copying upon an owner’s proper request.
This discussion is not intended as legal advice but rather solely as a foundation for a discussion with the association’s legal counsel so that the facts and circumstances of a particular situation may be thoroughly discussed and analyzed.
Ramon Palacio is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, and a Partner with Association Law Group. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.