How much privacy can guests expect at your vacation letting property? Do you have the right to use hidden cameras in your property? Where do you draw the line between security and privacy? If you have ever wondered about the ethics of security cameras, this mini guide is sure to be worth a read.
Recently, an Airbnb owner in Florida made the news when guests discovered a hidden camera in the ceiling of their bedroom. A tiny camera was hidden in the smoke detector, and sending a feed remotely to the owner. Additional cameras were soon found in the living room as well. Although the owner insisted that the camera was not in use, he was arrested and charged with video voyeurism – a third degree felony in the United States.
Not surprisingly, this has led to much discussion on the ethical implications of filming guests without their knowledge. If you have a vacation letting property, and you have ever been tempted to set up a hidden camera, it is essential to understand what the law says about such cameras.
How Private is Your Vacation Letting Property?
In South Africa, video and audio is seen as the same when it comes to recording conversations. Section 4 of the RICA outline states that recording without consent is unlawful, unless the person being recorded either by video or audio is aware that they are being recorded. This applies to photographers as well as hidden cameras. That means that it is illegal to film people without their knowledge. Some things to keep in mind if you are thinking about adding cameras to your vacation letting property:
- Hidden cameras may not be used inside the property. This means that you may not add cameras to bedrooms, living areas, dining areas, kitchens or bathrooms, unless you make it clear to guests that they are being recorded. If you do want to use cameras, you will need to add easy to read signage and also tell guests in writing or person that they may be recorded.
- External cameras may be used for security. These are typically not made to film guests and record private interactions. Instead, they monitor the area and provide vacation property security. You can tell guests about these, or keep the cameras visible. Until guests enter your property, they are technically still in a public space. While this can be a grey area, it is still better to be upfront about any cameras – even those not inside the property.
- It is vital to put your guests’ privacy first. If you are concerned about theft, the simplest solution is to have clear vacation rental policies that include fines and checks as needed. Doing background checks in advance and listening to your instincts is also advised. Hiring a short term rental manager is another way to get peace of mind, as a good manager will be able to screen guests and manage their stay on your behalf.
- Putting up cameras illegally can land you in jail. At the very least, if your cameras are discovered, you could be liable for harsh fines, if not jail time. Even if your cameras are not turned on, the presence of them will imply that you have at some point either filmed or considered filming guests illegally.
If you’d like to know about working with a dedicated vacation rental manager, get in touch with the Totalstay team today. We will arrange an evaluation of your vacation rental property, and advise on the best approach for long term success.