Security Cameras Gotta Go?

(WSVN) - You put a doorbell camera in front and small security cameras in back to see what’s going on. Not a big deal unless you live in a South Florida condo association, and when one condo owner was told to take his down, he turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to find a way to keep them.

When we arrived at Lech’s door, we didn’t have to knock. His doorbell camera let him know we were there.

Lech Zalewski, security cameras gotta go: “The camera is basically my eyes when I’m not at home.”

When Lech’s doorbell quit working, he replaced it with a doorbell camera and attached two cameras to solar lights on his balcony.

Lech Zalewski: “One on the east side is pointing towards my car and the boat, and the west side is pointing on the rest of the boat in the canal and the pool and the other side of the parking lot.”

But, of course, since it’s a condo, if you do something, another neighbor will want you to undo it.

Lech Zalewski: “He didn’t like it because he thought my camera was pointing towards his balcony.”

Lech didn’t think anything of the balcony cameras until he got a letter from the association’s attorney accusing him of altering the common area of the building, specifically the outside walls and the balcony.

Lech Zalewski: “The letter from the attorney for the association told me that I had to remove my cameras immediately within 48 hours.”

The letter surprised Lech because he knows the rules. He was once the condo president.

He also knows other neighbors have doorbell cameras, and the association has cameras scattered everywhere.

Lech Zalewski: “The building’s got about 20 cameras. There are cameras all over the place.”

Lech is also surprised he is being accused of altering the property since the two cameras on the balcony are tied to his solar lights.

Lech Zalewski: “I put those lights in maybe eight years ago, and the lights never bothered anybody.”

But, these cameras obviously bother his condo association.

Lech Zalewski: “This shouldn’t be of any issue to anybody. It’s just like– it would be me standing on the balcony and looking outside.”

So Lech’s question: what does he do?

Lech Zalewski: “I will take Howard’s advice on how to proceed.”

Your turn on camera, Mr. Finkelstein.

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “You can keep the doorbell cameras, but the balcony cameras are a closer call because condo associations have great power in regulating what you can put in common areas and exterior walls and balconies since the association considers that an alteration of the property, but here is a loophole: if Lech wants to watch his boat and car, put the cameras on a tripod or attach them to his chair. The association has no control over that.”

I spoke to the condo’s attorney. He said doorbell cameras are allowed since the door is not considered common area, but the balcony cameras are not allowed. He said if Lech is concerned about security, the association has 20 cameras.

He added Lech could accomplish what he wants and follow the rules by putting a security camera on the boat.

When I asked if he agreed putting the cameras on tripods or furniture on the balcony would be allowed, he said depending on where it was pointed, probably.

Howard Finkelstein: “Many condo documents were written 20 or 30 years ago before security cameras were so small and cheap. Condos need to rewrite their documents to take into account a more security conscious world.”

If the condo association won’t change their old rules, Lech might put the cameras on his chairs or a tripod, but he just doesn’t understand why such a big fuss is being made of a small camera.

Lech Zalewski: “I just want them to leave me alone and leave my cameras in place where they are.”

If Lech doesn’t want to put the cameras on a chair, he has another option.

When you live in a condo association, you can take the disagreement to what’s called binding arbitration and let an independent arbitrator decide who is right. It’s a good option for a condo owner if they can’t get the board to change the rules.

Losing focus trying to solve a problem? Well, picture this: send us a snapshot of it, so we can zoom in on it and develop a solution.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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