On September 13, Home Invasion News received an email from Marcia A. Wrick, a property owner in Cleveland, OH. The subject of her email caught our attention. Titled “A new type of invasion and police attitudes about neighbor disputes,” the email contained the following story in Marcia Wrick’s own words.
I am a landlord and I stumbled on your blog while doing a web search. Your article on Section 8 was excellent.
I have a modest rental business (two doubles and a single) in the better part of west Cleveland. I have two long-term tenants of over four years. My sister has another upstairs unit she rents from me; she’s been here a little over a year.
My single home became available to rent recently; long-term tenants had rented it who were retiring and moving out of state. A young mother with three children (which later turned out to be twice that many) viewed the unit on a Wednesday and gave me a partial deposit to hold the home. On the following Friday, she was to pay me the rest of the deposit (equivalent to one month’s rent). At the end of the month she was to pay rent, cleaning, and a pet deposit prior to moving in on the first of the following month.
For some reason, she did not get paid Friday and this woman asked to come by Saturday afternoon, which I agreed to. Since she did not drive and had lived close by, she walked over with her two little daughters. She wanted to show them inside the house, so I unlocked the back door so they could walk through and excused myself for a moment to go outside by my car to take a phone call.
Finished with my call, I came around front to check some plants on my way to the door I opened less than 10 minutes before, and to my horror, people were coming up the street carrying household items. I’m talking at least 20 of them that I could see. I was in shock. My husband was out of town and I was terrified.
I told her, “You haven’t paid me, gotten permission to move, or been given keys. What are you doing? You can’t stay here!” She cried and said her landlord already rented out her unit (it’s the second week of September and she knew I would not have the house available to move into until October 1st).
Police would do nothing. I waited past midnight for her “boss” to materialize with money; he never showed. This is crime. The police would do nothing because there were a bunch of kids in there. Now I have to pay to evict people who are not even “tenants.” Because there are kids I can’t even shut off the utilities. Once empty, it will stay that way.
My advice to landlords is to only allow one escorted individual to view a unit and have two people with you. Ask for names, and ages for all prospective occupants and enforce it. My contract allows me to fine or evict a tenant for excess occupants and only allows for one tenant-owned vehicle in driveway (I have a close parking area up the street for guest vehicles). I have a very close relationship with other property owners on the street, and good reputation for having a well-kept, quiet property.
I have to believe what happened to me was planned — a crime that will go unpunished because of incompetence and fear on the part of city and county law enforcement, both of which told me they were “afraid to touch it.”
As the economy erodes I can see this happening to other small landlords, folks with a couple of houses they can’t sell, that instead they hope can generate some income in the meantime.
“Possession by force”, “rental home invasion”, “vacancy invasion” — whatever you want to call it, I see a time right around the corner, maybe even here already, where nice people will need a weapon to ward off would-be squatters bent on hostile takeover.
Since sending her email, Home Invasion News has corresponded with Marcia, who has added to her original post the following observations about how she plans to fight back.
The person who did this should be arrested and prosecuted. Instead they have been given the same rights in eviction as an individual who moved in after paying in full. Until they are evicted, I am organizing some individuals to protest in front of the house, with my neighbors support, making signs that say the individual inside is squatting and police allowed it. Public humiliation — maybe it will get some media coverage, and more property owners will be able to share their frustration.
In Cleveland, we have to pay the city $75.00 per year, per unit to rent property, and we are given no assistance when tenants steal from us or vandalize our property. What good is a judgment after the fact? They won’t pay. If you or I entered someone’s home or business and did the same thing, we’d be arrested.
Willfully not paying rent is stealing, as is forcibly invading a rental property. Years ago I stopped providing appliances because they’d disappear when tenants moved out and police wouldn’t even allow me to file a report because I didn’t see the items being removed.
What happened to me at least might do some good if the police and public can be spurred into action against all of this destructive behavior. When my house is empty, I intend to put a banner sign in front of it explaining why it’s not for rent for a period of time, with my neighbors blessing. I also want to organize with other small property owners whose rights are being trampled to begin to put pressure on the city to begin supporting our rights and those of our neighbors.
I hate that I have to do this, but as the economy declines I can easily see [more of this behavior]. We need to make it harder to qualify to rent and when there’s a housing shortage maybe the city will connect the dots. This will be hard for many of us who have a mortgage and need the income to pay it, but we have to put a stop to all this behavior by folks who victimize property owners. The police and court blamed me –one woman –for not being able to stop 20 plus people from barging into my house, carrying armloads of belongings, including some very big young guys, who the police saw when they came out. Enough is enough.