Device to tell whether someone's entered my apartment?
October 25, 2013 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I live in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco, and have been enduring some landlord harassment of various types. (I'm paying a fortune, but rents are so high right now that even what I pay is well below market.) For my peace of mind, I'd like to install some sort of reasonably priced device to ensure that no one's entering my apartment when I'm not there. A huge bonus would be collecting evidence if it does happen.

I've read lots of suggestions such as inserting a piece of paper in the doorframe, taping a hair across, putting something behind the door every time I leave, drawing an X in lipstick on the doorknob (!?), etc., but I don't want to drive myself crazy every time I leave the house. I also don't want to spend $400 for a super-spy clock with a camera in it or whatever.

Are there any in-home security devices someone could suggest in the under-$50 range? (If it's really useful and well designed, I'd pay more.) I have wireless, so it could be Internet connected. Ideally, there would be some sort of motion-detecting-plus-short-video capability, as I don't have much interest in going through hours and hours of camera footage just in case something pops up. Or some really cheap motion detector that flips a switch or light that I can see when I come home would be good for a start as well.

Thanks so much for your help!
posted by roxie110 to Technology (17 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps some ideas here?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:36 AM on October 25, 2013

Right here:

Tenvis Security Camera

Works great for me. Motion detection sends a series of three photos via email to me, and I can access it remotely with dynamic DNS set up on my network. I highly recommend it. And, it's $1.50 under your budget. Can also do video recording and uploading.
posted by liquado at 11:41 AM on October 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

How about a $40 game camera?
posted by advicepig at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

My Wansview net camera has the option to send an email when it detects motion. Hook it up to your Internet connection (either WiFi or wired), set up the motion detection stuff, plug it in and point it at your front door.
posted by straw at 11:45 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

drawing an X in lipstick on the doorknob (!?)

Just in case you're interested in how this would work: you'd mark it somewhere on the underside of the knob, in such a way that a person approaching or standing over it cannot easily see the mark. The way people grasp doorknobs, if someone turns the knob, they'll smudge with their palm of fingers. The trick would be to remember to check it before trying to open the door when you get home.
posted by griphus at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you have a computer with a web cam that could be set up facing the door? I used iSpy, a free open source program to monitor my dog while I was at work. It can be set up to be motion or sound activated, and will only record when something is happening. You can also monitor it remotely online, although I never tried that feature.
posted by Kriesa at 12:00 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are a ton of nannycams under $50, just check Amazon.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the reasons I reserved a Lockitron was that I would like to know when maintenance people enter my apartment, as it seems to happen way more often than I'd like. (The other being that I hate having to deal with keys.) They have just begun to ship, though, so may take too long/be too expensive for your purposes.
posted by gemmy at 12:40 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here in the northeast U.S. I've noticed the game cameras advicepig mentions going on clearance around mid-winter in past years, so if you wait a few months you might be able to get an even more reasonable price.
posted by XMLicious at 12:44 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're going to get a webcam that detects motion, get one with IR capability (example) so you can see who it is if they are rifling through your stuff in near darkness. Costs a few bucks more but is more likely to actually work.
posted by benzenedream at 1:10 PM on October 25, 2013

iCamSource to your DropBox account. Also second the IR recommendation.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:47 PM on October 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all these suggestions! I'll definitely check them out. I'm hoping not to have to leave a computer in my apartment foyer day and night, so the standalone devices sound best.
posted by roxie110 at 3:06 PM on October 25, 2013

Gosh isn't this the perfect time to leave a bucket of water atop a near-closed door like in the movies? Bet they'd never come back without permission after that embarassment
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 7:57 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about a motion detector that can send you a text/email/whatever when motion occurs? You could get a Wemo Motion and use IFTTT to notify you whenever it's triggered.
posted by cgg at 10:11 PM on October 25, 2013

I have a foscam which emails me a picture but you can do the same with a webcam and IFTT. You might also want to leave a note stating confidently that you know he's coming in and that this is against the law. If nothing else it'll affect his peace of mind.
posted by fingerbang at 3:46 PM on October 26, 2013

Gosh isn't this the perfect time to leave a bucket of water atop a near-closed door like in the movies? Bet they'd never come back without permission after that embarassment

Worst idea ever. Landlords in SF do have the right to enter a unit in case of an emergency; if for example, there is a burst water pipe or overflowing toilet that is causing damage to a downstairs unit, it would be considered negligent if they didn't enter your apartment to address the problem.

Get a webcam if you want to catch your landlord entering your unit illegally.
posted by echolalia67 at 6:20 PM on October 26, 2013

get an ip camera, connect to your wireless internet and you can monitor through your pc or connect directly from your android to see live feed
posted by radsqd at 8:34 AM on October 28, 2013

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