Surveillance cameras in co-ownership

The desire to preserve the safety of people and property can lead both syndicates and co-owners to consider the installation of surveillance cameras in the building. However, the question of the legality of such installations raises several debates in co-ownership. It should be noted that surveillance cameras are used in many buildings, although they do not please everyone, especially the occupants of the building who claim the right to privacy.

However, are surveillance cameras in a co-ownership legal? And if so, is there a procedure to follow?


The syndicate

The Civil Code of Quebec does not specifically regulate the installation of surveillance cameras in a divided co-ownership. A syndicate may be justified in installing such a device, for the sole purpose of guaranteeing the safety of property and people. Such cameras may be placed in common portions, as long as they are not hidden and do not specifically target one or a few units (e.g., front doors or residents' balconies, terraces and windows) or the residents themselves. Nevertheless, they must have been informed that the common portions are monitored by cameras, otherwise the co-owners of the building could claim that the whole infringes on their privacy, in particular, according to article 36 of the Civil Code of Quebec.

A justification and a decision are needed

The board of directors may take the initiative to have surveillance cameras installed in the common portions, if there has been damage to the building in the past (vandalism) or theft, whether by third parties or occupants. Such an installation is explained by the mission of the syndicate to ensure the conservation of the building or operations of common interest.

However, if there has never been such misdeeds, some might claim that the installation of cameras constitutes work for improvement of the common portions. Therefore, an authorization from the meeting of co-owners would be required, under the terms of a enhanced majority vote. Moreover, in a judgment of the Superior Court of Quebec, it was decided that security being a component of the destination of the immovable, the installation of a better security system was part of the preservation of the destination of the immovable rather than changing that destination.


When a surveillance camera is installed in common portions, for example on the floors or in the entrance of the building, it is required to warn occupants and visitors of the installation of the latter. A warning sign should announce the use of cameras to people who may be filmed before they enter the premises. While security may be a valid reason, it would be inappropriate to install a camera that would point at the front door of a specific apartment. The Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector requires a syndicate of co-owners to balance its video surveillance needs with the right of individuals to privacy, which implies the right to live one's life out of sight. It should also be noted that information collected through video surveillance should only be used for the purposes for which the surveillance is conducted, or for purposes authorized by law. Thus, if a surveillance camera is installed in the interior garage of the co-ownership (for security purposes), the information collected cannot be used to track the movements of co-owners, occupants, or tenants. However, in the case of car break-ins, the information may be shared with the police.

The co-owner

A co-owner cannot, on his own initiative, install a camera in the common portions. Only the syndicate has the right and the power to hire a company in order to proceed with its establishment. It is the same for the installation, by a co-owner inside his private portion of a video surveillance system which aims to film the common portions (accessible to all co-owners). This installation may constitute a manifestly unlawful disturbance in that it intolerable compromises the rights held by each of the co-owners in their free exercise of their rights over the common portions. In a  judgment  rendered by the Superior Court of Quebec, it has already been recognized that photographing or filming a person in a private place or transmitting his image, without his agreement, violates the reasonable expectation of residents in terms of privacy. Such a device is contrary  to articles 3 and  35 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which provide  that everyone has the right to respect for his or her private life. Article 36 of the Civil Code of Quebec adds that " The following acts, in particular, may be considered as invasions of the privacy of a person: 4  keeping his private life under observation by any means."  

Records management and consultation

The installation of a surveillance camera system must meet a necessity. The objective pursued must be sufficiently significant to justify the collection of personal information and be proportionate to that purpose.  Thus, no co-owner should have access to the viewing of the images collected. Only a few persons designated by the board of directors, such as a director, manager or persons responsible for the security of the building, should have access to it. Such recordings should under no circumstances be disseminated or transferred to a third party, except to the police or judicial authorities in the event of an investigation requiring the examination of these images, in particular to identify the perpetrators of crimes or offences committed in the building.

A by-law is needed

In order to ensure the respect of privacy, a by-law governing the management of records and their consultation must be adopted. This regulation could thus include the following rules:

  • Video recordings must not be entered in the co-ownership register and be accessible to co-owners;
  • Data entry equipment is located in a reserved area and locked at all times;
  • A very small number of people mandated by the board of directors should have access to the images collected;
  • Access to data requires a password established and known only to the two agents appointed by the board of directors;
  • Agents are responsible for the maintenance of the camera system;
  • In the event of the resignation of a mandatary, the board of directors must immediately appoint his replacement;
  • Videotapes should not be systematically viewed unless a purpose may justify viewing them, such as vandalism;
  • The data collected may only be transferred to the police authorities in the event of vandalism, theft, threats or beatings to a person and other misdeeds;
  • The data collected is kept for a maximum of one month.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! The decision to install surveillance cameras in a co-ownership must take into account several factors. It is a delicate balance that must be established between the rights of the community and those of the co-owners taken individually, and this according to the particular context of the co-ownership concerned. TO KEEP IN MIND: The safety of property and people is a component of the purpose of the building. The installation of a security system is thus part of the preservation of the destination of the building rather than changing it.

WARNING!​ The desire to preserve the safety of people and property may lead some syndicates of co-ownership to consider the installation of surveillance cameras in the building. Such a decision cannot be taken lightly, as demonstrated by a judgment in Boivin c. Syndicat des copropriétaires Terrasse Les Jardins Durocher inc.


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