Who does security footage belong to?
By Frank Higginson27 Jan 2011
Many complexes include some form of CCTV which the resident manager is required (usually by agreement) to monitor. The security equipment is usually owned by the body corporate, but kept in a lot to which the resident manager only has access.
Naturally, we have seen positions other than this (for example where the resident manager actually owned the equipment), but that is not the usual position.
One of the first questions posed to us this year from a client related to security footage.
Our client was the resident manager for a complex that consisted of both residential and commercial lots. The usual position was in place where our clients monitored the security equipment owned by the body corporate. They backed up the tapes and the like.
One of the commercial lot owners believed that an employee was stealing from them. They asked our client for copies of the security tapes covering their lot to determine whether the employee had been coming and going outside usual opening hours.
So, what to do?
In very simple terms if the police or any other appropriate judicial authority seeks a copy of any material held by someone, then they are more than likely going to be entitled to it (whether by court order or otherwise). This was not the situation here. This was a lot owner asking for a copy of the footage just as an owner.)
Our conclusion was that:
- The resident manager was a contractor for the body corporate.
- The terms of the contract (being the caretaking agreement) obliged the resident manager to monitor the equipment and keep back up tapes etc.
- Those tapes belong to the body corporate, and are therefore a body corporate asset (although not necessarily something that forms part of the ’records‘ of the body corporate. For more on what constitutes the records of the body corporate see our previous article here.
- Body corporate assets should only be dealt with in accordance with the Act. To us, this means that the committee needs to authorise the release of the tape to the owner. It is not for the resident manager just to hand out material belonging to the body corporate on request.
- If the committee rejected the request, we have very little doubt that the owner would have been successful in an application to obtain a copy of the material.
Resident managers have a number of different roles to play. Most times they are decision makers, but in this instance the role of the resident manager was as a gatekeeper.