Q: I live in a six-story rental building in Washington Heights, with five apartments per floor. My neighbor across the hall installed a Ring camera that captures the entire floor. It faces my apartment directly, providing a clear view inside whenever I open the door. Aside from the fact that it’s uncomfortable knowing that all my comings and goings are being recorded, I wonder if this is legal. What can I do about it?
A: Your neighbor does not have the right to place anything in the hallway, including a door camera, without the landlord’s consent. It’s unlikely that your landlord has given the neighbor permission to do this because landlords generally don’t want tenants damaging the walls or recording what’s going on in the hallways.
“I’ve never heard of a landlord consenting to a camera,” said David E. Frazer, a lawyer who represents tenants. “It creates trouble and it potentially damages walls and ceilings.”
Tell your landlord about the cameras, expressing your concern for the building and the walls. With any luck, that will solve the problem. If, however, the landlord decides not to get involved, your remaining options are limited, because the presence of a camera in a common hallway is not illegal.
As a tenant, you do not have the presumption of privacy in common areas of buildings, like hallways, elevators and lobbies. That lack of privacy extends to the area inside your apartment that is visible when you open the door. So while your neighbor may not be allowed to install a camera and point it directly at your door, your landlord can. “The courts have held that the landlord has a right to put a camera in the hallway and even disguise it,” Mr. Frazer said.
If the landlord doesn’t order your neighbor to remove the camera, your only recourse would be to speak with your neighbor directly. Talk to the neighbor, if you can, and ask if they would, at the very least, reposition the camera away from your door.
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