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Is someone listening? What Buyers and Sellers need to know about smart home monitoring devices and Massachusetts law.

Is someone listening?  What Buyers and Sellers need to know about smart home monitoring devices and Massachusetts law.

How many times have you been touring a home and pointed-out the good, the bad and the ugly to your family members or agent as you wander from room to room?  Hideous paint color, you say?  Why didn’t the seller update those kitchen cabinets?  Let’s low-ball an offer based on all the work that needs to be done.

Best to keep those comments to yourselves until you are out of and away from the house.  Everything you say and do may be recorded or monitored.

It’s not quite as sinister as it sounds, really.  How many of you have an Amazon Echo, smart home monitoring device, or a camera at your front door, like Ring?  Well, those devices may be in the homes you are touring, too.  Chances are the seller isn’t in a van with blacked-out windows around the block listening-in, but it may be too tempting for them to check the Ring camera from time-to-time to see how many people are attending a showing.

Before Alexa was even a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye, Massachusetts enacted a law which prohibits the electronic interception of conversations in a private setting unless all parties to the conversation are informed that it’s being monitored or recorded.  Back in the day this surreptitious interception was known as wiretapping and was primarily directed at listening-in on private phone calls.  Even though such devices couldn’t possibly have been envisioned by the legislature at the time the law was enacted, the activities of our Alexas and Rings arguably fall within the wiretapping statute, even if no actual person is actively listening in on the other side.    

Sellers with any type of smart home monitoring devices are best advised to disclose the presences of such devices in their MLS listing and clearly at the entrance of their home when conducting showings.  Making an audio or video recording of someone without their consent can lead to civil fines or worse, criminal charges.  

Whether or not any signs are posted about surveillance, buyers are best advised to be discreet with their opinions until clear of the home.  Then you can ask, “Alexa, how much does it cost to remove wallpaper from every room in the house?” 

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