As technology advances, cameras become smaller, cheaper and easier to hide.
If you’re unaware of cameras in a vacation rental, that could be a major violation of your privacy.
There are some laws and policies that offer some protections for people staying in vacation homes.
Hidden camera laws
Recording video in private spaces, especially if it includes sound, is a crime in many states.
In Michigan, it is not a crime for owners of rental properties to set up video-only cameras (meaning no audio) and record their guests without their guests’ knowledge. Unless the recording is for a “lewd” or “lascivious” purpose. If people are being recorded for “lewd purposes” in Michigan then it is a crime.
Florida is similar in that there appears to be no criminal statute which outright prohibits non-audio surveillance in a residential structure unless the recording is being used for “amusement, profit, or other similar improper” reasons.
Vacation rental policies
Regardless of the laws, vacation rental companies have their own policies regarding audio and video recording in a rental property.
Vrbo has a policy that surveillance devices, which include video or audio recording, can’t be used inside of a property. Security devices and smart doorbells outside of the property are allowed to record audio and video if they follow certain rules. They must be for security purposes and the renters must be made aware of them.
Airbnb has a policy that does allow security cameras and noise monitoring devices as long as they are disclosed in the listing description and “don’t infringe on another person’s privacy”. Airbnb allows cameras in public spaces and common areas as long as the renter is aware. Monitoring devices have to be installed where people can see them and they should not monitor bedrooms, bathrooms or other areas that can be used as a sleeping area.
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How to check for hidden cameras
Local 4′s Crime and Safety Expert Darnell Blackburn offered some advice on where to check for hidden cameras and how to notice them.
If something seems odd, out of place, or sticks out to you, you should pay attention to it. Blackburn said fake USB chargers with hidden cameras are very common.
“As you’re processing this, think about where things are. Something that is out of place in a specific area, or there may be things at a certain level where they just want to get a certain view,” Blackburn said.
Local 4 also tested a device that is meant to check for hidden cameras. It seemed to work at first, but at times the detector did not notice the hidden camera or went off when there wasn’t one. In the end, we decided it wasn’t very trustworthy.
Blackburn offered this advice: bring painter’s tape. Use the tape to cover up any suspicious spaces or holes in the walls or furniture. Because it’s painter’s tape, it shouldn’t ruin the paint or finish when you remove it before you leave.
You can also use the light on your cell phone or a flashlight to check objects that look like they might be concealing a camera. You’ll see the camera lens when your cellphone light reflects off it.
If you have doubts about an object, put it out of sight. If there’s something like a picture frame, a hanging clock or anything that’s removable -- remove it until your stay is over.