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We live in the hills. And the way our neighborhood is designed is as you go up the hill, there will be a house below you, and a house above you (which are side by side to your property). The elevation between each house is pretty dramatic. I would say at least 10 feet in elevation.

The house above us was owned by a family for over 30 years and recently sold to a couple and their small child. They have been working on the house for at least 6 months now and recently hired what I would assume is a non-licenced security installation company to put up cameras (At least 10) all around their property.

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Camera 1 of 8 was placed during the first installation and it is pointing at the right side of his property and 90% of our backyard including our pool.

We were upset about the camera but didn't really care enough to cause an issue with them since they are new.

3 Months later he also installed camera 2 and 3. These are PTZ cameras. Meaning they can Pan, Tilt and Zoom. The reason I know that, is because I've installed security equipment in the past. I know the industry very well.

Because his property is 10 feet above ours and these 2 PTZ cameras are placed on a pole behind his pool. He can see directly into one of our bedrooms. I'm really not sure what to do about this.

I was not too crazy about the camera (cam 1) on the back of his house pointing at our entire backyard. But Those PTZ cameras are overboard. And I'm pretty sure he spent a lot of money to install those cameras.

What are the laws behind all of this? I'm in California.

EDIT: Cameras 2 and 3 are not on his roof. They are in his backyard behind his pool. A perfect angle to see into our bedrooms.

  • I'm sure you've already considered this, but for everybody else reading - unless you have a reason not to try talking to your neighbor about your concerns, that would seem to me to be the first step before seeking legal recourse. Most people are pretty reasonable and will be happy to try to work with you especially if they're perceived as having caused a problem. – Patrick87 May 3 at 13:41
  • The issue is, I've never personally met our neighbor, and he's been sort of a piece of garbage ever since he purchased the house. Demanding street space for his construction workers. Complaining about a number of trivial issues to assert his ... dominance? I don't know the right word there. But basically just bark crap at us over his fence and we mostly ignore it. Cause we've been here for 25+ years. And we are also unsure if he's just flipping the house or not. – Sickest May 5 at 18:30
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    Have you thought of installing infrared spotlights / blinders? They’re invisible to the eye but will render the cameras blind when they’re pointed in your houses direction. A good security professional can help you install this. – RoboKaren May 5 at 19:01
  • "He can see directly into one of our bedrooms. I'm really not sure what to do about this": close your blinds/curtains/etc. Build a wall. Plant a tree. – phoog May 5 at 21:19
  • Having worked with CCTV companies in the past, pretty much all commercially available packages have the ability to block out regions from the video stream (including when panning and zooming - its pretty interesting stuff), so they will appear as black squares on any live or recorded video for precisely this reason (adjacent property requesting privacy). Ask your neighbour if they have set this up, and if they haven't then request that they do. – Moo May 5 at 22:54
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The California Constitution gives you the right to privacy, but your neighbor also has the right to have cameras on his house. https://oag.ca.gov/privacy/privacy-laws

That means that it is up to the courts to balance those rights. If you did go to court, the judge would have to look at the cameras and decide if they significantly violated your right to privacy in regard to audio and video.

Just because the camera can see part or all of your yard doesn't make them illegal, because the neighbor has the right to record his property and may not be able to avoid recording your yard. If the cameras can be re-positioned to only see your neighbor's yard the judge might order that. You would have to show it would not violate his right to record while it substantially violates your right to privacy though.

Audio is different because it can pick up conversations. California requires you to notify people when you record their conversations in a place where they would be expected to be private. If the camera is recording your conversations, that would be illegal.

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You are only entitled to privacy that a reasonable person can expect in your place. The resulting rule of thumb is that one can photo/film whatever private property they can see from public/their place provided that they do not use special equipment (e.g. tele lens) allowing them to see more than a human eye.

If your new neighbors were just standing there where the cameras are and staring at your yard/window, you would have no claim: they can stand there and look wherever they want. However, if they were using a telescope to penetrate through your bedroom window and see you having good time which a reasonable person in your bedroom would not expect anyone to see, that would be a privacy breach.

The mere fact that it is artificial eye (a camera) seeing your yard/window and not neighbors themselves does not mean that your privacy is breached; this is simply equivalent to a person/guard sitting up there 24/7. For a successful breach of privacy claim you need to prove that the camera is able to see more than a human eye.

Applicable California laws:

California Civil Code section 1708.8(b) (emphasis added):

A person is liable for constructive invasion of privacy when the person attempts to capture, in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity, through the use of any device, regardless of whether there is a physical trespass, if this image, sound recording, or other physical impression could not have been achieved without a trespass unless the device was used.

California Penal Code § 647(j) (emphasis added):

every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor:

(j) (1) A person who looks through a hole or opening, into, or otherwise views, by means of any instrumentality, including, but not limited to, a periscope, telescope, binoculars, camera, motion picture camera, camcorder, or mobile phone, the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth, or the interior of any other area in which the occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of a person or persons inside. This subdivision does not apply to those areas of a private business used to count currency or other negotiable instruments.

(3) (A) A person who uses a concealed camcorder, motion picture camera, or photographic camera of any type, to secretly videotape, film, photograph, or record by electronic means, another identifiable person who may be in a state of full or partial undress, for the purpose of viewing the body of, or the undergarments worn by, that other person, without the consent or knowledge of that other person, in the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth, or the interior of any other area in which that other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of that other person. For the purposes of this paragraph, “identifiable” means capable of identification, or capable of being recognized, meaning that someone could identify or recognize the victim, including the victim herself or himself. It does not require the victim’s identity to actually be established.

As one may conclude from the wording of the cited laws, for a successful privacy breach claim you would need to prove that your neighbor actually attempts or intents to invade your privacy — as opposed to merely ensuring their security. Given that the cameras are not concealed or secret, and have a plausible purpose, you would have to collect additional evidence of the neighbors' intentions; merely the fact that the cameras are there is not sufficient proof of a breach of privacy.

  • I think a reasonable person would not expect someone to sit on a roof. – zibadawa timmy May 3 at 23:14
  • @zibadawatimmy Yes, but then neither would they expect to be given notice before that someone gets there for repairs/painting etc. nor would they be able to impose frequency/duration/schedule of that someone's presence on the roof. Someone can get there anytime and see their bedroom window with their eyes. This is just a trade-off of living close to your neighbors a reasonable person would expect. Anyone not happy with it should have bought a lifestyle block with no neighbors miles around. – Greendrake May 4 at 0:00
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    Can you point me to any sources in which brought you to this answer? – Sickest May 5 at 18:34
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    Further to @Sickest's comment, this answer is very plausible, but even if it is accurate for some jurisdiction, does it apply in California? – phoog May 5 at 21:21
  • @Sickest added sources to the answer. – Greendrake May 6 at 0:06

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