I have listed a property and the seller has outfitted his home with webcams. He says it is to keep an eye on the property, but I think it is more about listening to conversations and seeing who is viewing the house. Must I disclose to potential buyers and their agents that they are being videotaped? The lawyers at the MAR Legal Hotline say… It’s all about the audio.
Legal Hotline Answer: Questions regarding the use of webcams or “nanny cams” are becoming more prevalent throughout the nation. Increasingly, sellers worry about safety in their home and wish to monitor showings with these devices. Others may view the use of these cameras as a tactic to give them an edge on negotiations, as they will get a sense of the buyer’s view of the home. If your seller wishes to use a webcam, it is important to have a discussion regarding the legality of these devices when taking the listing.
If the webcam has a feature that streams or records audio, the seller must obtain consent from all of the individuals being recorded in advance of the recording. Massachusetts has some of the strictest wiretapping laws in the country; it is one of the few states that requires all parties involved to give consent. Therefore, it is illegal to record conversations of prospective buyers (and their agents) without their permission.
If the webcam does not stream or record audio, or the seller has disabled this feature, the law is not as explicit. Neither Massachusetts nor federal wiretapping laws prohibit video surveillance or require consent from the parties. It is strongly encouraged, however, that if a seller is using a webcam it should be clearly disclosed to all prospective purchasers and their agents. If you represent a buyer, you should consider asking listing agents if there is a webcam in use at the showing.