What to do if my neighbor is recording my conversations and sending them to my landlord?

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What to do if my neighbor is recording my conversations and sending them to my landlord?

I live in a duplex and my neighbor is recording my conversations and sending them to my landlord. My landlord sent me a letter stating that I have violated my lease “quiet enjoyment” and must be corrected immediately. The units have no privacy between them, I can hear my neighbors as if they were living with me, but I don’t record or even try to listen to what they are saying. Can she record my conversation without my consent and do I have the right to break my lease and move?

Asked on November 22, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, MN is known as a "1 party consent" state. This means that as long as 1 party to the conversation consents to its recording it is legal. Secondly, I will assume that this recording is being done in your neighbor's apartment (i.e. they have not placed a recording device in your apartment).

According to the law, as long as 1 party to the conversation consents to recording it, then the recording is legal. However, here your neighbor is not a party to the communications; they are merely overhearing them. So on the face of it, it would appear that the recording is illegal.

That having been said there is an exception in the law for conversations in which there can be "no reasonable expectation of privacy". For example, if someone where to record a conversation in a restaurant or other public area. Now, having conversations in your home home would certainly be expected to be private. Yet since they are being held in manner so as to be heard in another unit, there is certainly an argument to be made that you no longer have an reasonable belief that they would be private. Accordingly, taping these conversations are legal. In other words, you may have in effect given up any privacy rights as to any communications that are so loud as to be overheard by others.

As to your tenancy, this does not give you a right to terminate your lease but it does give your landlord the right to terminate your lease based on your violating the "covenant of quiet enjoyment". That is the right of your neighbor to have and enjoy a quiet living premises. In fact, this gives them the right to terminate their lease if they so choose.


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