Judge finds reckless use of smart doorbell in condominium

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An Alberta court ruling last month provides a useful lesson in how living in a condominium complex requires tolerance — and sometimes the compromise of deeply held opinions and principles.

Lillian Lupuliak owns a condominium in Calgary. Following an attempted break-in to her apartment through the patio doors in 2019, she installed a camera outside the building. He captured video and audio from his patio.

She also installed a “smart” doorbell on the door of her unit facing the common interior hallway. He was able to make audio and video recordings and was connected to the Internet. The doorbell’s recording functions were triggered by a motion detector.

The software associated with the doorbell saves video recordings for 60 days and can be marked by a user to be saved indefinitely. Files can also be exported for use elsewhere.

Condo rules prohibit any owner from making additions or alterations to the exterior of a unit without first obtaining written consent from the condo corporation. The regulations also state that a landlord cannot unreasonably interfere with the use and enjoyment of common areas by other landlords or their visitors.

Lupuliak did not get permission from the condo board to install the patio camera or doorbell.

Joanne Amey lives across from the Lupuliak unit. The doorbell, and especially its video function, made Amey uneasy. The motion detector went off when people entered and left her condo unit, as video and audio of herself and her guests were captured. She felt it was an invasion of her privacy.

Eventually, Lupuliak and the condo corporation found themselves in court at the doorbell. She asked the court for a declaration that the bylaws do not allow the condo to remove the doorbell and an injunction prohibiting the council from removing it.

Conversely, the board of directors and several owners have requested an injunction requiring the removal of the doorbell.

Acknowledging that it was not an upsetting dispute, Judge Colin Feasby wrote: “To a stranger, disputes between neighbors often seem petty and unnecessary. Although some aspects of this dispute are insignificant, it is essentially a disagreement on a point of principle. »

Nonetheless, the judge had little sympathy for Lupuliak’s actions.

In his decision, he writes“Lupuliak’s conduct in using video footage captured by the doorbell to bolster his complaints about the (condominium and multiple landlords) to the Calgary Police Department, Alberta Health Services and the Privacy Commissioner Privacy Statement, as well as his posting of video footage of the doorbell on social media, was inappropriate.

“Weaponizing the doorbell in this way validates all the concerns expressed by (condominium owners) and is not conducive to peaceful coexistence in the context of a condominium complex.”

Judge ordered Lupuliak to remove doorbell from front door, stop ‘sending threatening communications or engaging in abusive conduct’ with condo board and pay full legal bill of the condominium.

He also noted that the council could have resolved the issue without litigation by installing its own video security system.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and contributing columnist for the Star. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @bobaaron2

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