When Packages Go Missing, Can Tenants Check the Surveillance Tapes?

Q: I am a property manager for a rental building in Midtown East. In recent months, there has been an increase in the disappearance of packages left by delivery workers in the unattended lobby. (Delivery people are buzzed in all day, so it’s hard to keep track of who is coming and going.) We have surveillance cameras in public spaces, but they are for the safety of our tenants, not to monitor packages. But tenants have been asking to see the video footage to investigate the missing packages. Am I allowed or obligated to share this footage with tenants? What are my responsibilities?

A: You should address a security problem in your building, but sharing video footage with tenants is not the solution. People don’t have an expectation of privacy in a lobby, but they also don’t expect their landlord to share videos of them getting their packages. The request raises thorny issues: How much of the tape do you share? What do you do with the information you glean? And once you show one tenant video footage, what do you do when the next tenant asks for it?

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Luise A. Barrack, head of the litigation department at the Manhattan law firm Rosenberg & Estis.

In short, it’s not your job to investigate possible criminal activity. That’s what police are for. If you think a crime occurred in the building, or if tenants request access to the video to review it, contact your local precinct for guidance.

“Put it to the police department and say, ‘Hey, we’ve had a number of packages that have gone missing, which we believe are as a result of theft,’” Ms. Barrack said. Let them tell you how to proceed.

But as the property manager, you can make your building safer for the residents. Inspect the locks on the outer door to make sure they latch properly. Post signs in the lobby stating that the area is monitored by video surveillance, which could deter thieves. Circulate a letter to tenants reminding them to collect packages promptly and to be mindful of who they buzz into the building. Consider installing a package locker, which would provide your tenants with another layer of security.

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