Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

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Hristo Botev
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Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

I honestly do want some opinions from this group on my question above, but as I started writing the background for my question (below) it became clear I partly just need to vent; this is all really affecting DW and me . . . .

My family lives in a townhouse complex, which is a big component in our plan to drastically downsize our lives (significantly less square footage; shift from 2 cars to 1, since kids can walk to school and DW and I can walk to work and to run most errands; lower mortgage and quicker to having the house paid off; sell/give away lots of "stuff"; lower energy bills; etc.). And up until very recently it's been without a doubt one of the best decisions we've made.

HOWEVER, our particular unit shares a front porch with the adjoining unit. The people that just moved into that unit are (sort of) friends of ours: our kids go to the same school and have since daycare, and we share a group of school-related parent friends. But honestly, our kids don't really get along that well, as they have drastically different interests, and DW and I both just kind of tolerate the parents in bigger group social settings. But when they saw that the unit next to ours was going up for sale, and that it's walking distance from the school our kids go to, they jumped on it, despite our subtle attempts to try and steer them to one of the other units in the complex that was simultaneously up for sale (and despite the fact that the unit next to our needed an entire gutjob before it would be livable for them). The mom, however, has visions of her and DW sitting out on the back porch sipping white wine with DW; needless to say, DW does not share that vision (and she doesn't drink white wine).

Anyway, this has been a big source of angst for DW and I for a while now, as we awaited for them to move in following a several-month construction job (the noise and inconvenience of which we of course had to live with; the neighbors didn't because they were still living in their old place). E.g., we can't sit out on our back porch and gossip about friends, our kids' classmates and their parents, our kids' schools, or even what we're planning on doing for vacations or for evenings out or whatever, because of the likelihood that our new neighbors will overhears us (because they are EXACTLY the kind of people that will then share that information with others, so that they can appear to be in the know). Also e.g., one of our favorite parts of the day had been the 10 minutes or so we get as a family on the walk to school; now, however, the new neighbor mom and her son sit and wait by their front door until we all spill out of our house, so that she and her son can join us for the walk. I perhaps should be more neighborly, but it really just sucks. Also, even though there is a firewall between our units, it's just really weird knowing that our master bed headboards are sharing the same wall.

We've lived in a townhouse, a condo, and an apartment together as a family, and I have no problem with (and in fact prefer) dense living situations over the single detached home thing. But the dynamic is just different when it's a "friend" next to you as opposed to a stranger with whom you are just friendly.

To the question, and perhaps the tipping point, yesterday I was walking up the stairs to my front door and my neighbor (the dad) called out to me. I looked around and didn't see him, and it took me a while to realize that he was calling out to me from the Ring doorbell camera he'd just installed. For context, the doorbell wasn't installed directly next to the front door, facing out to the road (though that would still be an issue because it would capture anyone coming up and down our shared stairs). Rather, it's on the adjacent wall to the left of the door, so that it is pointed directly to OUR front door and to the window above the desk in our front room where our daughter does her homework. My neighbor thought it was hilarious that he could see me coming home from his doorbell camera and call out to me. I don't find it funny. I find it disturbing; but I'm not exactly sure why, or if it is something I should talk to him about.

Help please.
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Wed Feb 19, 2020 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Just to add, as I'm venting, that the only reason the new neighbor's kid is at the same school as our son is because they followed our lead. We all live in a really good public school district, and our kids attended the public daycare together (though, again, they were never really friends; our son just tolerated their son), but we made a decision to go the Catholic parish route. They never would have done that, but for our decision to do it, as they think our decision had something to do with the quality of education being better at the parish school; it didn't, the public schools probably do a better job at the meritocracy stuff. Our decision had more to do with the "kind" of education (i.e., Catholic with less focus on success for the sake of success). Those are not priorities that are important to them. DW pointed out last night that it just feels like something out of a horror movie plot; these people would be perfectly fine acquaintances with whom we would be fine occasionally spending time with in a school-related social setting (and would inevitably move further and further away from over time); but for a number of reasons they aren't and won't ever be real friends of ours. And honestly, I can't really think of any real friends I'd want living in such close proximity to us; as opposed to nice, neighborly, friendly stranger with whom I have nothing substantive in common other than our addresses.

It just feels like we can't shake them; they are just imposing into our lives more and more and more. It's creepy as hell.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Single White Female; Catholic School parents edition.

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Stahlmann
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Stahlmann »

:----D

Peanut
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Peanut »

You seem to feel your choices as a family have a lot of influence over what they do. Is this really correct? It's not that I don't believe you, it's just really weird and yes potentially creepy. So assuming it is true, why do you think that is? Do these people have any real friends of their own? Why do you dislike them? And why do your kids not get along?

I didn't quite understand the logistics of the camera thing but I would have no problem asking them to direct it away from your door/window and would encourage you to do that kindly but firmly. If he doesn't acquiesce I would have no problem not talking to them anymore either until the problem is fixed. It seems like an invasion of privacy and it is reasonable for you to protest it.

Short of moving it seems you will have to tolerate the situation. Most people will take the hint after many tactful rejections, so that seems like your best bet to limiting contact with them. Good luck...

chenda
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by chenda »

It feels more Desperate Housewives than a creepy horror film but I agree with everything @ffj said.

Or try and convince them their place is haunted somehow....

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

ffj wrote:
Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:33 am
Silently hoping they will change their behavior is not going to work and it will create a situation where one of you is going to blow your top.
This is so spot on. Thanks.

Given how many different ways our circles intersect--same church, same small city, same small school, same teachers, same church/school circle of friends, same profession and even similar professional acquaintances, same fraternal and community organizations and activities--we just have to be very delicate in how we draw the line here. But at a minimum, I think the strategy has to be: (a) tell them to remove/move the doorbell camera and why; (b) be polite but not familiar in our interactions with them; and (c) suck it up.

Also, need to draw some hard boundaries. E.g., I don't want their kid treating our small house as an extension of his own. That's perhaps mean to say, because our son has a couple other buddies in the neighborhood who I have no problem hosting at our house. But the point is those other kids are socially adept enough already (and to the extent they are not, their parents are) to know how much is too much. This kid just doesn't get it, and neither do his parents. His dad is exactly the kind of person who will just assume that you're cool watching his son while he runs 3 hours of errands, or whatever; without thinking that doing so just throws a massive wrench into your entire day. It's back to that Brooks article thread @jennypenny started--there's a place for adopting an extended family in the absence of a real extended family, but damnit, this is not who I want as part of my extended family. And given the proximity (both physical proximity and otherwise) this feels more like nuclear family than extended.

Another issue, this kid is an only child, and frankly, I think he just gets really bored, in part because he's not at all in to playing sports or other group activities that foster new friendships. And I don't want it to be my job (or my kids' jobs) to entertain him every time his parents get tired of him and send him next door.

HalfCent
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by HalfCent »

You can blind or damage the camera with a laser or infrared flood light.

Situation sounds creepy. I would get out now while you still can.

Loner
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Loner »

It is so bad I couldn't help but laugh out lout where you wrote: "I looked around and didn't see him, and it took me a while to realize that he was calling out to me from the Ring doorbell camera " It sounds like something out of the Simpsons or something. Out of all the neighbour archetypes ("The Criminal", "The Party Guy", etc.), it sounds like you got the "Clueless, Overeager Wannabe Friend".

I think ffj got it right. The best is probably to be honest and just tell them calmly that the camera points at your window, and although you know they just want their house to be safe (or whatever is it they do this for), it makes you feel observed, and could they remove it/point it towards the road/whatever. Any civil, reasonable person would understand that. And if they don't and get angry, well at least they'll leave you alone. In last recourse, there's still the option to move, although for sure that's a PITA.

ertyu
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by ertyu »

Agree with ffj. People like that need to be told no, and directly. There is no way to do it without ruffling feathers with people who deliberately won't take a hint.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

OK. I'm feeling a bit better now. I just told him I'm not cool with his setup, claiming I was worried about creepy hackers and Jeff Bezos spying on my kids, etc. He said no problem, he'd have it moved, and he apologized that it didn't even cross him mind, but he understands why it's an issue. So, that's a start.

Seppia
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Seppia »

This is a good sign.
Most times, people are just a bit clumsy and a kind but firm discussion can fix it.
If it doesn't, well, you're renting right?

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Seppia wrote:
Wed Feb 19, 2020 1:55 pm
If it doesn't, well, you're renting right?
Nope. In hindsight, I should have bought the place next to us when it came up for sale. We thought about it, as a rental property and as a place for my in-laws to live. But the in-laws weren't interested because they don't want a place with stairs, understandably. But we should have just bought it anyway; it was priced right, and it likely wouldn't have been a bad investment. Sort of like buying a duplex and renting out half of it.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

ffj wrote:
Wed Feb 19, 2020 2:51 pm
Everything above makes me sound awful but if you're not the type to have a ton of screaming kids around then don't fight it. There are many ways to help your community out other than becoming foster parents.
Preach brother! We moved to this particular townhouse complex in large part because it's got a gate at one end, so there's only local traffic and no cut-through traffic. What this means is that even though we live in an dense, urban area, car traffic isn't a big safety concern. So, we don't think twice about telling the kids to get out of the house and go find something to do outside. There's lots of green space, and the kids have already learned that the longer they stay away, the less likely it is that they will be told to fold the laundry, or do the dishes, or walk the dog, or whatever.

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Ego
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Ego »

I would be direct. "Hey Neighbor, that doorbell camera looks right into our house. Would you please move it or better yet get rid of it."

If they are not agreeable I'd say something like, "It records video of the exact spot where Cindy-Lou Botev does her homework everyday and that's just a little creepy. We don't want to rearrange our house because..... you know."
Hristo Botev wrote:
Wed Feb 19, 2020 10:12 am
(because they are EXACTLY the kind of people that will then share that information with others, so that they can appear to be in the know). Also e.g., one of our favorite parts of the day had been the 10 minutes or so we get as a family on the walk to school;
They will get the implication and will probably want to avoid making you angry and sharing the implication with others. It may also kill two birds with one stone and get your favorite part of the day back.

Jason

Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Jason »

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technolo ... ll-camera/

My question: is your townhouse subject to a HOA? If you do have one, I would use them as a third party to mediate the situation. Some HOA's have amended their by-laws to prohibit cameras as they surveil common areas which the owner of said camera does not actually own or at least own outright.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Jason wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:33 am
The HOA is an interesting angle. Our rules don't specifically address cameras, which I guess is expected given that they were written in the 80s. The rules prohibit any act or use of a lot that could reasonably cause embarrassment, discomfort, annoyance or nuisance; but I think it's a stretch to fit security cameras into that language. Poking around online I found this blog post, which makes sense to me:

For the second, you can and should set rules about security cameras installed by residents. Specifically, installing exterior cameras should require approval. This allows you to check whether the cameras are spying on neighbors, by requiring the angle view of the camera. Doorbell cameras, for example, which only show the person standing right outside the door should generally be allowed for houses, but can be an issue for condos where front doors are very close together. However, cameras which might see inside a neighbor's windows should not.

https://blog.realmanage.com/how-should- ... ty-cameras

As it stands, I spoke to my neighbor/"friend" yesterday and he's having an electrician come out so he can move the camera so that it won't have a view inside our window or our front door. The camera will still of course have a view of our shared staircase, which means that every time I, or DW, or my kids go in and out of the house, he'll get a notification on his phone with video. That creeps me out, A LOT, but I don't know that there's anything I can really do about it, because it's probably not reasonable for me to essentially say they just can't have a security camera at their front door.

I should have just bought the damn house when I had a chance.

Jason

Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Jason »

I disagree. That stairwell is common area. He has no legal claim to surveil it and I would think your right to walk it without being surveilled comes under your right to quiet enjoyment. I would claim harassment.

Fuck this douche. He's probably wacking it to your wife's ass. Or maybe your's. Go to your next HOA meeting. You're an attorney. Threaten to sue.

Frita
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Frita »

I agree with Jason. Having owned/lived in a couple condos with strong HOAs, only condo association cameras were allowed in public areas. If your neighbor wants a security camera, it should be inside of his unit.

Set the rule that the neighbor kid cannot come over, ever. They seem like people who continually push boundaries. You set a boundary. They try to find a new way to push up to it. This will exhaust you if you let it.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Should I be OK with my townhouse neighbor's Ring doorbell camera?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Jason wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:40 am
Fuck this douche. He's probably wacking it to your wife's ass. Or maybe your's.
Ha! As someone who has known this guy for several years at this point, as a relatively close acquaintance, I would not doubt it for one single second.
Frita wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:53 am
Very, very glad I posted my question to this forum; it's helped me process my thinking on this issue. The neighbor has been receptive so far as to my concerns, so I think my next step is to play dumb about how these doorbell cameras work, and once he explains it to me, let him know that I'm not OK with him (or anyone) getting video notifications every time we exit or enter our house, and that there is really no difference between him video monitoring our shared stairway than him video monitoring the complex's pool or clubhouse. It's common area, and only the HOA board has the right to decide to stick cameras up in common areas. That said, the one place he could stick the camera outside that would be perfectly OK would be on our shared firewall, as the doorbell camera then really would only capture video of his front door, his half of the front porch, and his window. If he doesn't want to do that, because the doorbell would be too far away from the front door or whatever, then we've got an issue for the board.

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