Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Housing slump blues

I had a visit yesterday in my office from a very nice couple with a problem. They've been caught in the housing market slump. They bought a new home almost two years ago, and haven't been able to sell their previous residence. It's a nice place in a great east Lincoln location--three bedrooms, finished walk out basement, covered deck, cathedral ceilings. The photo on the Lancaster County Assessor's site confirms their description, and it sure seems to be reasonably priced to me, at an asking price of $229,000.

But they've had no takers, and in order to make two house payments, they've need to rent the house. Here's where the problem comes in. The police have been called to the address on disturbances six times since December of 2006. Most recently, the Southeast Team was sent there at 1:34 AM on September 20th on a report of loud music. The responding officer could hear it from half a block away, and he found a minor carrying a beer walking down the driveway, as he walked up the same.

In response to the ongoing problems, Capt. Kim Koluch sent a letter to the property owners. She let them know of our concerns, and of the fact that they could be held responsible for repeated disturbances at their property, through Lincoln's Municipal Ordinance prohibiting maintaining a disorderly house. It was this warning letter that caused them to schedule a meeting with me.

They began by telling me that they feel these calls were merely the result of a single oversensitive neighbor. I let them know that the calls had come from at least four different telephone numbers, were made by people both male and female, with different last names and addresses, and were clearly not all from a single neighbor. They weren't aware of the officer's personal observations on September 20, so I just I read them Officer Aksamit's narrative report. I gave them a few other excerpts from previous calls:

"Party in a hot tub in backyard" (3:04 AM)
"Loud music and male voices in background" (2:23 AM)
"Lots of people, very loud" (12:09 AM)

...and so forth. It's obvious that the hard-partying lifestyle of the young renters is in conflict with that of the rest of the neighborhood. When you've got to get up at 5:15 AM to get your workout in before getting the kids off to daycare in time to make it to work by 7:30 AM, you really aren't particularly interested in listening to the exploits of the hot-tubbers, or their music.

I looked up the names the couple gave me of the three polite young people who couldn't possibly be causing such problems. They are age 21, 22, and 25. Between the three, they have been arrested or cited for the following alcohol-related offenses:

2 Maintaining a disorderly house
1 Open container of alcohol in motor vehicle
2 Driving under the influence of alcohol
4 Minor in possession of alcohol
5 Disturbing the peace

Each tenant contributed at least two to the total of 14. The disturbing the peace and maintaining a disorderly house arrests were at three separate addresses. In addition, it appears likely that a fourth person is actually a roomie (not on the lease, but he keeps giving us that address when he gets arrested, which is frequently.)

I'm sorry to tell this nice couple that it does not appear to be a grumpy neighbor who is the problem here, and that Capt. Koluch's warning letter should be heeded. I gave them a copy of our brochure for landlords and property managers on how to track police dispatches at your property, and how to do an effective background check on prospective tenants. My closing advice after talking with them for about an hour was a strongly worded letter of their own, along the lines of "FINAL WARNING."


Anonymous said...

I was going to do more digging to try and ferret out the identity of this sub-development, but alas, the interactive crime map isn't working!

In any case, one reason people move out to newer neighborhoods with deed restrictions is (in addition to avoiding concrete block foundations and having no master bath) to have a better environment for themselves and their families. Less crime, less noise, less trouble all around.

A lot of the newer developments don't even allow anyone but the owner to occupy the property, and I wonder if these folks are running afoul of something like that, by renting it out?

Speaking of your very handy interactive crime map, the map is a great tool to use when selecting a potential neighborhood for a home purchase. Too many incidents = stay away.

As a final thought, maybe the primary reason that they can't sell the house is that potential buyers run the incident map and see too many incident icons in the neighborhood - caused by all the parties that their tenants are throwing! Hmm...

jon said...

I would love to be able to move my family to this part of town in this type of house. With the housing slump, it makes things very tough. Who knows, maybe I wouldn't be able to sell the house I currently own and the same circle of problems would run off on me.

I have a feeling this type of events are happening in many different communities all over this country.

I feel with the owners of this house, yet on the other hand, the residences around the house in question do not deserve to be victims of a troubled renter. The people that had the meeting with Tom need to set an example with the renters. Give them the boot.

Anonymous said...

I also find the interactive map not working..I also have tried it on THREE computers...still no go

Tom Casady said...

Hmmmm. Seems to be working fine on this side of the firewall. Can anyone describe the symptoms?

Anonymous said...

It's back up! Must have been the tail end of that weekend software update thing you were doing. Now to look at the 3500 Block of S 37th area...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 100th post.

I am a responsible 26 year old that might be interested in renting this place.

How much were they charging?

My parents own a few rentals in town, and they have had great luck with tenants. You just have to be picky on who you select, and make sure you do a background check.

Good luck selling or finding new people to rent your home to.

-JS- said...

The letter sent out to this property owner is a component of a POP project spear-headed by Officer Tom Ward.

I'm glad to see property owners taking the Captain's letter seriouly--because they should. :)

Tom Casady said...

Hey there, JS. Nice little html tag in that comment! You just never know what kind of hidden talents lurk out there. Capt. Koluch told me at the outset that it was TW's project, and I'm pretty impressed with the number of letters to landlords the Team has sent out lately. Between that and the open garage doors, SE3's having some very positive impacts. It helps the neighborhood, and cutting down on these calls save our resources, too. KUTGW.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the 3500 block of S. 37th Street LSE?

jenn said...

How about the "Arrive Alive project by Offc Winterbauer? It was great!

jenn said...

Just a quick idea for a blog,you may take it or leave it.

How about a blog that states all the projects the police have done and the results that have yielded because of them? ie. the garge doors and the prostitute sting, and if in fact these projects help with lowering the crime rates.

That way the citizens of Lincoln can stop saying that the police are not catching the "real criminals".

Just a thought.

Zen said...

"Speaking of your very handy interactive crime map, the map is a great tool to use when selecting a potential neighborhood for a home purchase. Too many incidents = stay away." This is how my wife and I selected the house that we bought in College View. The map was a great resource in looking for houses. Thanks for allowing access to it.

Anonymous said...

Chief, if you get a chance, could you please repair that "open garage doors" link in your post?

(No, 2900 is LSE, 3500 is between Sheridan and Calvert)

Tom Casady said...

Jenn- There are several problem-oriented policing projects highlighted in my blog posts, with some pretty impressive results: prostitution, drinking parties, metal thefts, sex offender residency restrictions, garage burglaries, come to mind. I'll try to highlight more from time to time.

I didn't miss Arrive Alive intentionally, but we do lots of good POP projects, and my day job intrudes on my blogging with regularity. ;-)

Anonymous 9:05-

Sorry about the dead link to garage burglaries. It's a great example of an effective problem-oriented policing project with good data to evaluate the results. I can't edit comments once they're posted, so I ll just give you the correct link in this comment!

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right, people do need to check for criminal background history on potential tenants. Witness what being an abentee landlord renting out a recently purchased house in Colonial Hills can bring in the way of dope farming. Previous convictions all around, with one having a conviction for manufacturing with intent to distribute (probably an earlier dope farm effort). I thought "owner occupied" was in the neighborhood covenent down there in CH, but I could be wrong.

Nice bust, by the way.