This week, a Connecticut landlord was arrested after being caught on camera sniffing a tenant’s underwear while she and her daughter were out. The incident was caught on a hidden video camera the tenant set up. Orellana-Arias was arrested with third-degree burglary for the act.
This is actually more common than people think and happens all the time. The surveillance cameras the landlord uses for the garage and the front door are also used to learn a tenant’s habits and schedules in many instances.
I lived in an apartment in the Valley of Los Angeles where the landlord and the maintenance man would sit in the office each morning and eat breakfast while monitoring about 12 video cameras, watching tenants leave for work and trips, (luggage of course is a dead give-a-way).
Tenants started complaining when we would see each other in the garage about odd items missing, from jars of change to irons to lights being left on that they never turned on when they came home from a short trip.
One of the tenants had left with his girlfriend one morning and when the girlfriend returned to get her laptop it was missing.
Another man was in his apartment meditating after taking the day off of work when he heard someone put a key in his front door and open it. It was the maintenance man, he walked in then shyly walked out.
A new female tenant stated that her toilet set was up several times when she came home.
Finally, one day while washing clothes, I noticed the maintenance man coming out of an apartment next to the laundry room about 11 am. He looked like he had been busted doing something wrong. I was talking to neighbors, a young couple with a newborn, in the garage about it that day and told them I was going to check with the tenant in a couple of hours to see if they knew anything about it.
To my surprise when I knocked on the door it was the same couple I had talked to in the garage. They were visibly upset and said there was no reason for the maintenance man to be in their apartment.
They called the landlord and he lied and said he went into the wrong apartment. But the couple said they noticed underwear in the drawer had been unfolded and shifted around.
They moved almost immediately.
In this situation, the landlord and the maintenance man, who was the black sheep of the owner’s family, were working in concert to break into tenants’ homes.
Tenants are often at an impasse because the landlord is required to have access into a tenant’s apartment with a key but the tenant also has to come and go. STILL, this is a crime and even if arrests can’t be made suits can be filed in small claims court.
Here are some ways to protect yourself from being a victim of this situation.
You are supposed to get 24 hours’ notice for the landlord to enter your home (depending on your state) and it has to be for maintenance purposes. It would be wise for you to let them know you need to be there whenever they need to enter your home.
- Buy a secrutiy camera from Costco that activates the minuite it detects movement and notifies your cell phone. Make sure you have the abilty to record with the camera so that you can press charges if need be.
- If you are leaving town and driving your car to the airport. Put your luggage in your car at night when the office is closed and they can’t monitor you. This is not gauranteed as they may be recording but it may throw them off.
- Leave a TV on during the day or the radio when you leave. Landlords and/or thieves always listen for movement or sound in the unit before they enter.
- Ask your neighbors who are home during the day to keep an eye out.
- Leave a note or a sign on the door indicating you have a security camera, even if you don’t. You can buy the signs at Home Depot or order from Amazon
- You could change your lock, this would protect you two-fold. The landlord is not going to admit he found out you changed your lock, because the first question you would ask is “How did you find out?” and if he needs to get in for an emergency he can alwyas break the door down or call a locksmith (You should not do this … BUT you can)
- Let the landlord know that tenants are concerened about internal breaks ins, and that you have all agreed to keep an eye out and press charges if it happens.
- If it does happen, do a police report. If the police get a few reports like this they will have to investigate and arrests could be made. But if you don’t do anything they will not have a record of it.
- Move, while you can’t prevent this from happening if it is happening where you live, move out ASAP. You may be able to break the lease after doing a police report if you feel unsafe in the apartment.