The advent of exterior video surveillance on residential properties made a significant impact on physical security. The ability to monitor different areas of one's property not only deters criminal activity but can also help capture evidence in the event of a burglary or other crime.
However, exterior video cameras can also cause some problems when it comes to neighbors and privacy. If your neighbor has a video camera trained on your property, it might make you uncomfortable (and rightly so). So, is it legal for your neighbor to record you? We did the research to bring you the answer.
Depending on where you live, your neighbor likely has the legal right to record you and your house provided the camera is on the neighbor's property. If a family member is in an area of the house/property in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, however, video surveillance is likely illegal.
And if a neighbor is physically on your property recording you without your consent, this constitutes trespassing and possibly harassment.
If you still have some questions about whether your neighbor has the right to record you and your property, don't worry. In this post, we'll discuss the topic in more detail. We'll provide you with some actionable steps to get some privacy back and hopefully resolve an uncomfortable situation. We'll also talk about whether a neighbor can take photos of your property. Without further ado, let's get into it.
Can My Neighbor Record Me?
Perhaps your neighbor recently installed an exterior video camera that's trained on your property. Or perhaps they've had a camera directed at your property for quite some time and you just recently noticed it.
Regardless, you undoubtedly feel like your privacy has been violated, and it's perfectly understandable to want some privacy, especially in and around your own home.
In fact, from a legal standpoint, you're entitled to privacy to a certain extent. But before you march over to the neighbor's house to complain, it's important to understand the entire legal scope of this situation.
If The Camera Is On Your Neighbor's Property
First, it's important to note that laws vary by state. So, be sure to check your local laws regarding video surveillance, as there could be some nuances that make your case unique.
But generally speaking, it isn't illegal for your neighbor to record you and your house provided a) their camera is physically located on their property and b) nobody is being recorded when they are in an area in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In other words, your neighbor has a legal right to record the area surrounding their house (whether that be for security reasons or any other reason), but you and your family also have a legal right to privacy.
So, what exactly does this mean? If your neighbor's camera is trained on the front part of your house and the front yard and no portion of your home's interior is visible on camera, your neighbor isn't doing anything illegal.
Even if their camera captures you walking outside, getting in and out of the car, doing yard work, etc., you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your front yard. Anyone in the neighborhood can easily see you, which means recording is perfectly legal.
If this news comes as a frustrating surprise, take a deep breath, and think about it this way—in reality, this is no different than a passerby looking at the front of your house from the sidewalk or street.
Though it might seem more unsettling to have a camera trained on that same part of your property, the two scenarios are practically the same. And just because the presence of a camera might make you feel a bit more uncomfortable, the fact remains that what your neighbor is doing is legal.
When It's Questionable...
On the other hand, it is illegal for your neighbor to point the camera toward, let's say, a bathroom window and record, as this is a room in which there is an obvious expectation of privacy.
In fact, a good case can be made that any portion of the inside of your house is a space in which one has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Thus, it can be argued that, if your neighbor's camera is oriented in such a way as to capture footage of the inside of your home, it is a violation of your privacy.
This is where your neighbor's right to record ends and your right to privacy begins. Should your neighbor's camera be trained on such a part of your house, it is likely illegal to record.
If The Camera Is On Your Property
Should you find that a neighbor is recording you while they (and their camera) are physically located on your property, this is a different matter entirely.
Regardless of what/who they are recording, if they are physically on your property without your consent, then they are trespassing.
How Do You Get Your Neighbors To Stop Recording?
Now that we've established the legality surrounding this type of situation, we'll talk about some of the ways you can peacefully resolve the issue.
Ask Your Neighbor To Point The Camera Elsewhere
Your first course of action should be to approach your neighbor and politely ask them to adjust the camera so that it doesn't record your property. Kindly express that it makes you uncomfortable and that you would prefer for the camera to point elsewhere.
Use your best judgment to determine whether you should speak to your neighbor in person, call them, or simply write a note.
You can also inquire about why they have the camera. If they say the camera is merely for basic security reasons, you could even propose getting a camera to install on your house and orient both cameras in such a way as to provide more coverage without being trained directly on the adjacent house.
That way, you can get some privacy back while increasing security—which should be a win-win for both parties. When communicating with your neighbor, be as polite as possible to help your chances of arriving at a solution.
Tell Them Of Your Intent To Initiate Legal Action (If Privacy Is Being Invaded)
If your neighbor's camera is invading your privacy (i.e. trained on a bedroom or bathroom window, etc.) and they refuse to point it elsewhere, tell them of your intention to pursue legal action. Of course, read up on your local laws beforehand to help make a legitimate case.
This very well might prompt them to reposition the camera. Even if you have particularly difficult neighbors, they likely won't want to risk getting into legal trouble. But if this doesn't work, get in touch with an attorney, and follow their guidance in order to hopefully secure a favorable outcome.
Construct A Privacy Fence/Screen
In the meantime, another course of action you can take is to construct a privacy screen. A tree, some bushes, or a fence might be able to block the camera's view of your property (or at least the view of any private areas).
However, be careful to ensure that the screen you erect doesn't violate any local laws or ordinances. In other words, you don't want the screen to be considered a spite fence, a barrier that was obviously constructed out of spite. If you construct what's deemed a spite fence, you could then get into legal trouble.
So, be sure to thoroughly review local laws and ordinances to ensure the privacy screen you plan on erecting will be legal. Remember, this is all about bringing about a just solution, so don't lose the legal high ground in the process.
Can A Neighbor Take Photos Of Your Property?
Generally speaking, yes, a neighbor is legally allowed to take photos of your property provided a) they aren't physically on your property (unless they have been permitted to be on your property) and b) they aren't taking photos of your property frequently and in a way that can be construed as harassment.
However, before you get too worked up about it, consider the possibility that there is an innocent explanation behind it.
For example, your neighbor might simply like the way you did your landscaping recently and want to show it to a friend or family member who is looking for landscaping ideas. Despite what you might think, something along these lines is most likely the explanation.
However, if you notice that your neighbor has been taking photos of your property on a frequent basis and in a manner that feels like harassment of some kind, then this can get to a point where it can potentially be illegal. In this case, it's recommended to reach out to an attorney for guidance.
We hope this guide helped you better understand the legal nuances surrounding video surveillance and what you can do to get some more privacy while keeping the peace in the neighborhood.
Before you go, be sure to take a look at these other posts: