Ask LH: Are Homeowners Allowed To Secretly Record Me In Their House?

Dear Lifehacker, I was recently hired to mind a house and some pet birds by a couple who went on holidays. I later discovered I was under active video surveillance for the nine days I spent in their house. (One of the homeowners casually slipped it into conversation during handover.) While I respect their concerns and rights regarding security, I feel this was a continuous breach of my privacy. I was never informed of their intention to monitor me 24/7 and wouldn’t have accepted the job if I’d known. So my question is: were they legally entitled to secretly record me or were they breaking the law?

I don’t wish to pursue the matter legally but I’m very annoyed and shocked that they violated my privacy by deliberately withholding this information from me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Ruffled Feathers

Laptop surveillance image via Shutterstock

Dear RF,

It depends on the location of the security cameras and what was being recorded. Each Australian state and territory has its own video surveillance laws — but they all allow individuals to use security cameras inside their property without notifying guests.

The exception is any place where a reasonable person would expect to be afforded privacy. In other words, for your rights to be legally violated the camera would need to be secretly filming in a bedroom, toilet or bathroom.

With that said, there are a number of related laws that these people may have broken. For example, in NSW and the ACT it is forbidden to record private conversations without consent. If you were talking on the phone or had friends over, you can request that all recorded conversations be deleted. If they refuse, you have cause to get the police involved.

Likewise, if you were walking around in the bollocky for some reason — moving from the bathroom to the bedroom, for example — any recordings they keep of your genital or anal region could potentially land them in jail. If you feel you might have been inadvertently filmed in the nude, you should probably contact the police.

Otherwise, the homeowners didn’t break any laws here. Some would even argue they did nothing wrong morally. (Much like with nanny cams, you’re not going to catch any crimes if you warn house sitters that they’re being recorded.)

It’s definitely an annoying situation and there’s no easy solution. You can’t even ask about it directly during the interview or they’ll think you’re asking for nefarious purposes.

In future, the best course of action is to assume you’re being recorded whenever you house-sit. Save the nose-picking until you get home.


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