Surveillance: Right to Know vs. Right to Privacy

As a Realtor®, are you informed about home surveillance laws? How does one’s right to know compare with someone’s right to privacy? Lane Mueller, an OR designated principal broker/WA designated managing broker and real estate lawyer, gave us a presentation on this important topic. If you missed it or want to refresh your memory about some of her important points, keep reading.

State Laws About Surveillance

First, you should know that surveillance laws vary from state to state, and it’s critically important for you to be aware of what the laws are in your state. Here are the main things you should know about Oregon surveillance laws:

  • For audio recordings, all parties must be informed of and consent to the recording (posting a sign is not good enough).
  • For telephone conversations, only one party must consent to the recording. If you’re a party to the conversation, you can record it without permission from others.
  • For video recordings, they are fine if they are in a public area. If they take place in an area where you should be able to expect privacy, they are illegal.

For Washington

  • For private audio recordings and private telephone conversations, one may not intercept or record without prior written consent of all parties.
  • For telephone conversations when the person recording is a participant, consent is obtained when the participant announces in a reasonably effective manner to the other party that the conversation is about to be recorded and the announcement itself is recorded.
  • For video recordings, there are no restrictions on them being made, but there are restrictions on what you can do with the recordings (posting a sign is not good enough).

Surveillance Cameras are Common

Surveillance cameras are becoming more and more popular, especially as they become more sophisticated. 13% of American homes have at least one camera. Many of these are connected to voice-activated hubs like Google Home or Amazon Echo. There are also nanny-cams, phones, laptops, and tablets in most homes, which are all capable of recording video and audio.

If you’re an agent showing a home, you and the buyer should assume that you are being recorded. Make notes about the home, but discuss or review the property after you’ve left it.

If you’re an agent who’s helping someone sell, you should know that it’s not OK for the sellers to leave recording devices in areas where potential buyers should be able to expect privacy. This includes bathrooms, no matter how innocent the reason for leaving a recording device in them. It’s always wise to inform agents and buyers in advance if they’re going to be recorded in a home.

Laws About Drones

As of August of 2016, drone operators are required to be certified. They must pass a three-hour test that’s administered at FAA testing centers. Operators must also be at least 16 years old and pass a TSA background check. They must carry insurance.

There are also limitations on drone flight. They can only operate during daylight hours, defined as 30 minutes before sunrise and up to 30 minutes after sunset. Operators must keep the device in sight at all times and the flight pattern should be limited to the subject property(ies). The maximum altitude is 400 feet above ground. The maximum allowed speed is 100 mph.

If you contract with a drone operator, make sure to get a copy of their insurance and certification and confirm errors and omissions coverage.

Thanks so much to Lane for sharing her expertise on this important topic with us!

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