With internet speeds increasing smart homes offer the convenience of remote monitoring and management of appliances, as well as devices that learn our preferences. However, in the State of Texas if a smart home is listed for sale – sellers beware! If a seller has smart home technology with video and audio capabilities it is paramount you understand the law when prospective buyers are inside your house.
Illegally recording someone is a felony offense in Texas. Any person recorded in violation of the law can bring a civil suit to recover $10,000 for each occurrence, actual damages more than $10,000, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs.
If a smart home is to be listed, here is how to stay out of trouble.
THE “ONE-PARTY RULE” WILL NOT PROTECT YOU
Homeowners cannot audio record a buyer’s conversation during a showing merely because the conversation happens inside their home. The “one-party rule” says you do not need consent to record a conversation with a person you are speaking to, however this “one-party rule” does not apply when you are not present and participating in the conversation. Sellers should disable the audio function on all devices during showings to eliminate risk.
BE CAREFUL WITH VIDEO
Many Texas homes have security cameras that record video. Silent video is generally allowed if it is not in a private area of a home. Silent videos from a common part of your home – exterior, living room, kitchen or garage is likely ok. Silent videos from bedrooms or bathrooms is not allowed and will probably create problems for the homeowner. Hence, it is recommended never to record video and audio together during a showing.
BUYERS PRIVACY IS PROTECTED BY LAW
Just because buyers are in your home does not mean you can record whatever you want. Texas privacy laws exist to protect individuals, and courts have ruled in favor of visitors when a homeowner goes too far with surveillance. If sellers want to know what buyers thought about their home ask the buyer’s agent to leave feedback. It is as simple as that!