Q: I'm renting a ground floor apartment with a small deck in New Jersey. A family with two very young children recently moved to an adjacent building in the same complex. I often find the children playing on my terrace and looking into my apartment through a sliding door. There is no fence around my terrace but it is obvious that this is part of my private space. When her mother and I see each other outside, she drives her cubs away, but they keep coming back. Any suggestions on how to get them to play elsewhere, like on the shared lawn behind their building?
A: Children may be too young to understand the concept of private property and good manners, but their parents are not. Unfortunately, some people have to explain the obvious to them, and if you want your privacy to be respected, it looks like this task falls on you.
Take the moment as an opportunity to pay your new neighbors a visit as the family recently moved in. Stop by and introduce yourself (at a safe social distance, of course). Greet them in the complex, and then lay down some basic rules.
Be direct. Tell them that you don't feel comfortable with their children playing on your private patio and looking into your home. It poses a safety risk to them (they could slip and fall) and bothers you. Be clear, polite, and firm, and point out that the common lawn is a good place for the children to exercise.
This should fix the problem. However, not everyone is a good listener. If the children continue to wander out onto your patio, remind them that they are not allowed to play there. (Sometimes children listen to strangers better than their own parents.)
If the parents continue to ignore your boundaries, contact building management and ask them to intervene. "The manager could gently remind you not to go out on anyone else's patio or courtyard area," said Lisa A. Smith, real estate attorney and partner in the New York office of Smith, Gambrell & Russell law firm.
Another option: put a few planters around the edge of the patio to create a visual and physical border that will put the kids off, provided the housing association allows such decor. Fill the containers with tall plants like ornamental grass and you have the added benefit of added privacy even after the kids have found a new place to play.
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