Saturday, February 18, 2012

Section 8 Tenant a Known Criminal

One of my tenants has been getting into some trouble with the law. My knowledge of it started the week of Christmas when a housing inspector for the city called me to let me know that they were investigating due to some property damage. The front door appeared to have been kicked in (again), and it was a fire hazard I needed to address immediately.

When they went to inspect for that, they also found the property was in general not being taken good care of. Inside there were piles of clothes - none hung in the closets - people sleeping here and there, and general lack of tidiness. So the tenant was also cited for a "housekeeping violation." She also told me that the water had been cut off 6 months ago, but the tenant was still living there, so they thought she may be stealing water and would be investigating.

She also mentioned that there had been a few complaints nearby about loud parties and that the police had been called out the weekend prior - which I'd never heard anything about. She tentatively told me that I might consider evicting this woman, that she didn't appear to be taking good care of my property. I told her I'd investigate all this and thanked her for the heads up (her only job was to get me to fix the door, after all).

I called my contractor to fix the door and he promised to go over that day.

A few hours later he called me to tell me he was at the property, but couldn't get in because the police were there arresting the tenant - and Child Protective Services was collecting her children.

A few hours after that a detective called me. He said he'd found out the tenant was on housing during the arrest and got my number from my contractor at the scene. He wanted to let me know what was going on. He said the gang unit had been out there the week before and had been watching the property because apparently my tenant's male relatives/friends had been hanging out there and the police had gotten wind of another party being planned. They'd gone over to warn her to cancel it, and had found stolen water meters on the premises.

He recommended that I evict her if I could, and just wanted to let me know all this since I wasn't likely to hear of it otherwise (the rent checks come automatically from the city so if my contractor hadn't been there and the detective hadn't called I may never have heard about all this).

In addition he told me that she had warrants out for two felony probation violations and that they'd been looking for her for 8-9 months. So she was being hauled off to jail. I was shocked and asked how on earth they hadn't managed to locate her since she was on public housing assistance and her address was clearly a matter of public record with the housing department. He expressed his regret about that and more or less made it clear that those two departments maintain separate records and don't really communicate much.

The even MORE shocking thing is that when I contacted the Housing Department to fax them a copy of my lease termination notice, the housing rep for my tenant said it wasn't for sure that my tenant would be kicked out of the housing program and asked if I was sure I wanted to terminate the lease. I demanded angrily to know under what circumstances she thought that our tax dollars should be supporting a woman who had warrants out for her arrest for felony probation violations and who had gang ties and who was stealing utilities from the city and had blatantly and repeatedly failed to maintain my property.

Her response was that it "wasn't for sure" whether she'd lose her Section 8 voucher, and I told her that she certainly wouldn't be remaining in my unit either way.

I'm considering bailing from the whole program now. I currently don't have any other tenants on Section 8, and though overall I've had a good experience with Section 8 tenants, the fact that the system doesn't screen for criminal activity - or even seem to mind it - is shocking and appalling to me as a taxpayer and landlord.

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