Specific Legal Issues

May, 16 2019 Published by Vancouver Chapter - By Gary Wong

Smart Doorbells, Smart Locks and Security Cameras in Stratas

From CCI Vancouver Condo News, Spring Issue 2019

Smart Doorbells, Smart Locks and Security Cameras in Stratas

A growing trend in today’s home is the use of digital security devices such as smart doorbells, smart locks and security cameras. In a strata environment, this means compliance to bylaw and privacy issues.

Stratas generally have a specific bylaw on the "look and feel" of common property such as the front door and entrance way. For townhouses and apartment condos, this would be the uniform style, shape and finish of exterior hardware such as door handles, locks and doorbells.

In BC, the Personal Information Privacy Act (PIPA) regulates what cameras can view or record on strata common property. Identifying an individual, either directly (e.g. name, image, job title) or in combination with other information cannot be used by a strata for enforcement, such as bylaw violations. However, given there are personal Smartphones and vehicle Dashcams which have video cameras, there has to be a balance between security and privacy.

Stonebrook, an 87-townhouse community in northeast Burnaby, has published guidelines that other stratas may find useful regarding smart doorbells, smart locks and security cameras. These may also be applicable for similar situations with apartment condos, such as common interior hallways.

SMART DOORBELLS

Unlike the standard pushbutton electric doorbell, the Smart Doorbell has a video camera to view and often record whoever is at the front door. Using the built-in microphone and speaker you can talk to who is there, without opening the door, whether you are home or away. These is a proximity sensor to ring the home door chime or trigger an alert on a smartphone via the home Wi-Fi network or the Internet. Events can be recorded for periodic storage on the Internet cloud through a subscription service. A smart doorbell uses the existing low voltage wiring between the door entrance and the chime for power and ring signal. If no wiring exists, there are also battery powered ones. Some recent models replace the door peephole viewer, ideal for owners or tenants who do not want to remove an existing doorbell.

As shown below, Stonebrook’s policy permits Smart Doorbells that comply with our Bylaw -9- on approved "look and feel" of the exterior front door hardware as well as PIPA requirements to limit camera viewing to the same detail as a peephole. In early 2019, the most popular brands are made by August, Nest, and Ring. Prices range from $130 to $300.

SMART LOCKS

Smart Locks can replace part or all of a standard door lock. Key or pushbutton type smart locks replace a exterior side of a door lock. Retrofit ones only replace the interior side of the door deadbolt. Smart locks can be opened or closed using a Bluetooth signal from a Smartphone when standing by the door or remotely by a Wi-fi signal from the home network or the Internet. Some can be integrated to Smart Doorbells and/or Security Cameras.

As illustrated here, Stonebrook only allows Smart Locks that retrofit the inside door latch to preserve the style and finish of the exterior lock and door handle as defined for a uniform exterior "look and feel" of strata common property.

Popular ones that replace the inside of the deadbolt latch are the August Smart Lock Pro or the Weiser Kevo Convert Smart Lock Conversion Kit, each priced about $250 or more.

SECURITY CAMERAS

While it is common today to install security cameras WITHIN the home, those that look OUTSIDE on strata common property must comply to personal privacy issues as governed by the BC Strata Act and the Personal Information Protection Act. From a practical point of view, any OUTSIDE (exterior) viewing camera must be limited to looking at the townhouse front door or garage entrance, without anything further if possible. The view should be similar to that seen from a door peephole: focussed short range, not much detail beyond that.

Stonebrook does not allow security cameras on any exterior surface of the townhouse as any mounting fasteners (such as screws) would penetrate the moisture barrier which could result in water damage. Until now, no exterior security cameras have been approved as the surveillance provided by a Smart Doorbell’s built-in video camera is sufficient in most cases.

It is better for a strata to have a proactive approach to adopting smart home technology through a well thought out and researched policy in writing. It makes life easier for the strata, property management and residents alike. Hopefully, this article on Stonebrook’s experience in the last year will help others. 

Strata Matters Articles are submitted by Strata Councils and should tell the story of how a problem was solved or the strata community was improved. By sharing your stories, your challenges and successes, you will inspire other councils to problem solve and be contributing toward strata best practices, helping others to build strong communities.

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