Evictions, Lock-outs and Squatters, Oh my
I have never done an eviction or even had to drill the tumblers out of a deadbolt before, but I can tell you that I was more than willing to try, and due to the extreme danger and risk involved, it seemed to me like it would be quite adventurous.
On a Monday morning I went down to the property to photograph the exterior for an asset inspection. While I was taking a few photographs, one of the neighbors who was taking out his trash called me over to ask what I was doing. Now, most inner city communities are close-knit so I know that he knew I wasn’t from the neighborhood.
I told him that I was there because the tenants who were previously living in the lower unit were being evicted by the bank and I was taking photos for the asset inspection. I was then told that he hadn’t seen the tenant in the lower unit, but saw a tenant in the upper apartment.
I finished taking the photographs and left.
A few days later I was given the task to engage in a lock-out of the lower unit; the deadbolt needed to be drilled as well as the door handle, plus there was a storm door which had to be breached. I was informed that the utilities had been shut-off and the private investigator confirmed via email that the property is vacant.
With this second visit I can say that the neighborhood was less than friendly and I wasn’t welcome.
When I pulled up, the neighbor was on the street again, this time unloading speakers from the trunk of his car, he waved once he saw me. Immediately I approached him and asked again if he had seen anyone living in the lower unit and once again I was informed that he still hadn’t seen anyone living in the lower unit.
Just about then a few of the local youths slowly gathered on a porch from a property across the street, eying me from their post.
The neighbor and I continued our conversation and he went on to speak about his neighborhood, how he’s lived there for 18 years, how they look out for each other, how different groups would fight another, and how he has stabbed people during his misspent days as a “rambunctious” youth. He even told me about how on Halloween they use to fill up socks with flour and hit each other with them. Eventually he asked me for a business card and went on his way after shaking my hand.
I gathered the tools needed and approached the door, knocking once, twice, three times; no answer. The storm door was dead-bolted closed so I used a large flat-head screwdriver to pry the “bolt” from out and over the door frame. While I was performing this task the local youths began heckling “if you show me a dub ($20) I’ll get you into that house quick-fast”. I told him that I was “all good” and once the storm door popped open I was cheered on with a “Yeah! That’s how I would have done it”.
I then started to drill out the deadbolt. After about a minute there was a nice little divot started in the metal of the lock, but I swore I could faintly hear something over the noise of the drill. So I stopped and pressed my ear against the door, I could distinctly hear a large dog just inside of the apartment, scratching and barking at the entryway.
My first thought was that they left a bulky guard dog inside the property to deter anyone from entering. I wanted to know more and see if I could visually gather more clues to this ever-growing mystery by peering into the apartment from the outside window. By the time I took the five steps needed to reach the window, the front door opened slowly. “Holy s***, there are people still in the unit” I believe were the first words to run across my mind at that moment, and then I could also picture the email in which the PI had “confirmed the property (was) completely vacant”. I heard a male voice from just inside the door repeating what a female voice was telling him, “What, he’s by the window?”
I steeled myself before walking into his view. I expected to see a gun, or at least something weighty in which I could be bludgeoned with.
“What the f*** are you doing?” was his response as he took his first glance of the man who dared to break into “his home” (did he forget that he is squatting illegally).
“I’m sorry, but I was told that the tenants have been evicted, and that there has been trouble with the bank. I’m here to drill and change the locks.”
“I got my family in here… plus I’m settling that s*** out with the bank! Why didn’t you knock?”
“I did knock.”
“Well knock harder! Did you do anything to my door?”
“No, but I started to.”
“Well fix it and leave!”
So, all I did was unlock the deadbolt to the storm door and close it. With tools collected, I got back into my car and drove away. I went about as far as a city-block before I stopped to call my employer, informing what had happened. And the response I got was “Did you get any photographs?”
But unknown to me at the time was that the office of my employer was receiving a phone call from a very angry individual claiming that someone was trying to break his door. Now for this man to have called the office so quickly means that either, the neighbor ran across the street the split-second I left and handed the business card to the squatter, the neighbor was the one who called, or he somehow contacted the squatter and gave him the number on the business card.
The phone rang at the office and the agent who answered had no idea as to what was going on. All he knew was that on the other line of the phone was some irate man yelling in his ear about how someone was handing out business cards and broke-open his door. The agent’s first response was that the office broker didn’t do anything like he was describing, and to call the police!
I didn’t find out that he called the office until returning and only after some convincing. And he called again the next day too. Since I had never done something like this before I didn’t know what to completely expect, or if any of my actions were “wrong” due to some legal loop-hole technicality or against “squatter’s rights”. All in all it was a heart-racing experience and a hell of a story to tell.
Remember, before you go to preform a lock-out, make sure that you personally verify that the property is vacant before you start changing out the locks.
I have been back since to photograph the property again, and the “friendly” neighbor appeared, arms crossed, standing on his porch watching me with a piercing glare and a stern grimace on his face. He didn’t wave this time, I guess he had nothing to say to me.