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Apartments with criminal pasts

Apartments with criminal pasts

Perhaps one of the most terrifying nightmares in the life of a renter is to unknowingly rent an apartment with a criminal past.

There are some obvious signs signaling that something is wrong with the place; the most striking of them is the price – below market. Any time you find an apartment with a price that’s too good to be true, it most certainly has something terrible to hide.

Picking the perfect place has many factors to be considered; most renters focus on size, location, price, amenities when choosing an apartment, but omit one essential aspect: its criminal record. It might sound as a scene from the movies, but reality sometimes beats the movies.

There was the case of young renters moved into their new apartment and shortly after experienced sickness, including nausea and vomiting, serious breathing problems and terrible migraines, forcing several hospital visits before they moved out after three months. It was only afterwards that they discovered that the apartment beneath theirs had once been a meth lab.

Perhaps you’ve watched Breaking Bad and noticed that cooking meth requires little hardware and is pretty easy to conceal. There have been hundreds of cases such as this one, seriously affecting the health of tenants who have moved in next. Meth contamination is invisible and the clean-up process is expensive; unfortunately there are plenty unethical landlords who simply skip the cost and keep quiet.

Renters who, unknowingly move into apartments where drug dealing/cooking or prostitution took place, enter an unsettling and dangerous zone. Unwanted visitors looking for the previous tenant will compromise privacy and safety in the new home. What is worse is the fact that many landlords avoid to warn the future tenants before they move in, so it’s up to the tenants to conduct their own research.

In many states the law doesn’t require landlords to warn potential tenants of criminal activity in their apartment or complex. Therefore, if your apartment or a neighboring one has been a nest for criminal activity, you might not be told, even if you ask. But if you are willing to do the research, there are ways to track such mishaps.

First, use Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other search engine and type in the exact address of the apartment. The address may have appeared in a news story or police blotter. You can also research police reports for the unit and the area to see if your potential apartment or nearby ones have experienced criminal activity. Consider break-ins close to the apartment, drug related activity, sex offenders in the proximity – all these are indicators of danger for new tenants.

Another option is to use CrimeReports and type in your exact address, if the results come up clear, then probably your apartment has a safe past. If you also wish to find out whether someone has died in that respective unit (either by natural or violent causes), you can pay DiedInHouse to bring you that answer.

A simple and inexpensive way to find out if the apartment you’re eyeing has a criminal past is to ask the neighbors. Knock on a few doors and ask of any unusual or illegal activities as well as of recent tragedies around the area/complex. Ask them if they feel safe, if they’ve noticed strangers or non-tenants hanging around as this may be a clue for drug or prostitution activity. However, be careful how you ask, be friendly and casual so that your future neighbors won’t feel accused of doing something against the law.

Once you’ve cleared the air and signed the lease to your new home, get renter’s insurance. Safety first, right?