Question - Cameras in apartment building - facial recognition
I have a question relating to a potential client that was referred to us. He wants a video system installed in a five story tenement, owned by his family for many years that he is now managing. The building has not been watched after properly for a while, and he now has illegal tenants and sublets, along with extended families of up to a dozen people living in an apartment. He wants to evict these people and was advised by his attorney to get a video system installed. The client specifically requested “facial recognition” to identify that the people are not the legal tenants. He is also prepared to maintain this system for the three years or longer that it will take to accomplish what he wants.
After explaining about what facial recognition is and what I think he really means and should get (that is possibly affordable to him), I laid out a system in common areas that will not look into the apartments themselves. Privacy issues played a large part in the design, while also positioning the cameras to obtain good quality facial shots (when they aren’t hiding their heads). This is a tough one for a variety of issues. First, he wants to lease the equipment. He will be subscribing to additional services that we offer, for backup and remote viewing. I also strongly advised him to insure the system, knowing that someone will be buying replacements when they are destroyed by the tenants.
My greatest concern is that when these tenants are faced with the very real possibility of losing their homes, regardless of their legal status, they are probably going to fight back. I don’t want to get dragged into court along with the landlord over any civil rights issues or false claims of invasion of privacy. I use your contracts, and I am aware that they offer protection for many eventualities including cost of defense and hold harmless clauses. I’m wondering if I need something more in this instance.
I am itemizing replacement costs for various parts of the system, using a disclaimer stating we offered alternatives and other options. Should I add in note emphasizing that the landlord won’t modify camera views in any way that might adversely affect the privacy rights of anyone? Do I need something else here? My gut is telling me that I missed something to provide proper legal protection. Maybe a fee schedule for legal issues when I’m asked to testify as a witness? Or service fees for maintaining chain of custody documentation on each piece of evidence requested?
I’m struggling with this because I’m not comfortable in turning away business merely because of issues the landlord might face down the line. This is an example of someone who is asking for help. He is asking us to provide equipment and a service we normally perform. So why is this bothering me? I know some people that would run from this job, because it smells of trouble.
Port Washington, NY
There is no reason for you to pass up on this job. And you don't need any special contract provisions - you should be using the Commercial All in One or the CCTV Lease. In either case the contract provisions will sufficiently protect you.
What you do need to keep in mind is that you should be carefully documenting the equipment you are installing, the location of the cameras and perhaps, as an additional precautionary measure, preserving an image from the cameras. This information [other than the preserved video data] would go on the Schedule of Installation and Services.
The Owner can install video equipment, and it can be as sophisticated as his budget permits. Cameras should be in public areas only and should not view into apartments. There is no reason you can't position cameras to view the entrances, lobby, laundry room, mail room, any recreational areas, roof, outside areas and hallways. Just document where you are installing the cameras in case one of them ends up in a bedroom in one of the apartments.