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Can a building official take pictures of the inside of your house without your permission?

San Carlos, CA |

A building official came to our house for an inspection as a result of a complaint from neighbor that there was unpermitted activity . during the inspection , The building official took pictures of the space without our permission . Is that legal ?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Best answer

    Generally, a building official is allowed to enter a premises reasonably believed to be in violation and to collect evidence. If you do not allow them on the property, then in most cases they would seek access via court order. However, in most cases the official requests permission to enter the property to inspect for a violation and it is granted by the homeowner. In the later case if permission is granted a homeowner will usually not be allowed to protest at the collection of information/evidence concerning the site visit. Code enforcement officers/building officials commonly take pictures during site visits for the record of what they saw.

  2. I would presume that if the building official was in your house for legal reasons, that is inspecting for compliance with building or zoning codes, or was conducting a "search" and you consented to letting him in your house, he can take photographs as well. If you are charged with some violation, you may be able to suppress the use of such photos as evidence, but my guess is that it's unlikely since you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy once you let the official in the house. I wouldn't imagine however that he could (or would) use the photos publicly without your permission (i.e., putting them on a website, giving them to some third person).

    If there wasn't the unpermitted activity he was looking for, don't worry. If there was, discuss with an attorney, especially if fines or charges are going to result. The photographs are only going to be a small part of the overall matter of whether there was a violation. Hope this helps.

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  3. It sounds as if you voluntarily let the building official in your house. Did you object when he or she pulled a camera out? If you object to such activity it certainly seems to be an invasion of your privacy outside of the official having a court order.

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