In January 2011, the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner ("OIPC") released updated privacy guidelines to help Strata Corporations and Strata Agents discharge their duties under the Strata Property Act, while meeting their obligations to protect owners, tenants and occupants' personal information under the Personal Information Protection Act ("PIPA"). PIPA defines "personal information" as information about an identifiable individual. Examples of personal information include a person's name, age, home phone number, medical information, financial information, and marital status. Not surprisingly, the Guidelines also included provisions regarding video surveillance systems, which are becoming more and more common in new strata developments.

According to the OIPC, while video surveillance systems do not violate PIPA, video cameras are inherently intrusive. Before installing video equipment or activating a surveillance system that was installed by the original developer, a strata corporation must be in a position to justify using the surveillance on the basis of verifiable, specific concerns about residents' personal safety or the protection of personal and common property that other measures have failed to address (Shoal Point Strata Council, [2009] B.C.I.P.D. 34). Video surveillance cameras must also be strategically placed to capture the security breaches it aims to address. For example, a strata corporation that has experienced a series of vehicle break-ins may be able to justify using video surveillance in the parkade, but may not be able to justify using the same system in the social room. Areas where owners, tenants, occupants, visitors and/or employees would have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g. change-rooms and washrooms) are not permitted to be monitored.

Last but certainly not least, the OIPC requires strata corporations to have a bylaw, or alternatively, obtain every owner's written consent, before installing or activating a video surveillance system.  Since owners, tenants and residents of strata corporations are subject to frequent turnover, maintaining these individual consents can be quite problematic.  As a result, assuming that video surveillance is supported by a ¾ vote resolution of the owners at a General Meeting, it is much easier to pass and register video surveillance bylaws in the Land Title Office. In addition to these bylaws, strata corporations must have a comprehensive written privacy policy in place that governs the video surveillance system as well as all the personal information the strata corporations collects. This policy should be made available to residents upon their request, and when it comes to video surveillance systems, should include the following information: confirmation that the surveillance system is for security reasons; the names of individuals who are authorized to view the surveillance footage and in what circumstances; the number and location of video cameras; the operation time of the video surveillance system; the length of time video footage is retained and how it is securely stored; procedures for how access requests will be made and answered; and procedures for notifying owners, tenants, guests and visitors that the video surveillance system is in operation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.