Q: I rent a ground-floor condo with a small patio in New Jersey. A family with two very young children recently moved into an adjacent building in the same complex. I often find the kids playing on my patio and looking into my apartment through a sliding door. There is no fence surrounding my patio, but it’s obvious that this is part of my private space. If their mother and I see each other outside, she shoos her boys away, but they keep coming back. Any suggestions for how to get them to play somewhere else, like the common lawn behind their building?
A: The children may be too young to understand the concept of private property and good manners, but their parents are not. Unfortunately, some people need the obvious explained to them, and if you want your privacy respected, it looks like that task will fall on you.
Since the family recently moved in, use the moment as an opportunity to pay your new neighbors a visit. Stop by and introduce yourself (at a safe social distance, of course). Welcome them to the complex, then lay down some ground rules.
Be direct. Tell them that you are not comfortable with their children playing on your private patio and peering into your home. It poses a safety risk to them (they could slip and fall) and is disruptive to you. Be clear, polite and firm, pointing out that the common lawn is a good place for the children to roam.
This should resolve the problem. However, not everyone is a good listener. If the children continue to wander onto your patio, remind them that they are not allowed to play there. (Sometimes children listen to strangers better than to their own parents.)
If the parents continue to ignore your boundaries, contact building management, asking them to intervene. “The managing agent could send them a gentle reminder about not trespassing onto other people’s patios or yard areas,” said Lisa A. Smith, a real estate lawyer and a partner in the New York office of the law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell.
Another option: Place a few planters around the edge of the patio, creating a visual and physical boundary to deter the children, assuming the condo association permits such décor. Fill the containers with tall plants, like ornamental grass, and you have the added benefit of extra privacy even after the children find a new place to play.