The Security Breach

24 Oct

We had to move to our apartment (in a new state) sight-unseen.  We have 2 cats.  And a strict budget–especially at that time, b/c moving is expensive!  No one called us back in Salt Lake City.  Everyone who responded at all, never even read our out-of-state situation, and invited us to a showing.  When we couldn’t make a showing “tomorrow” they just didn’t correspond with us.  It was everyone.  How nice for realtor’s in SLC that it’s a seller’s market.

Bottom line:  We pretty much had to take what we could get.

It was OK.  The apartment was a little larger and better then what we had in Spokompton.  The neighborhood was quiet, but had tons of potential.  The park across the street was not like the ghetto-homeless situation of Mission Park near our apt in WA-state, but largely empty.  And quiet.  And they did lawn maint like 4 times a week.

But recently things have slowly started to change.

Every once and again there will be a homeless person sleeping it off under a tree in the park.  Someone parked their shopping cart 5 blocks up on the sidewalk next to the main street.  Nothing big.

The change from quiet to icky came with this homeless family.  A man, woman, toddler, and dog lived in their car.  And parked the car in our complex’s parking lot.  Like, every night.  Nobody seemed to notice, and they stayed under the radar for 5-6 weeks.  Everything started sliding downhill after that:

8/17/2016:  Wrote in the apartment portal that homeless people were living in the car in our parking lot.

9/2/16:  Texted the manager that the homeless people were still parking/living in our apartment’s parking lot.  Was informed the manager was out of town and instructed to call police about it.

9/13/16:  We came back from an out-of-state week-long trip and suddenly the homeless family in the car weren’t around anymore.

Wed Sept 28:  A knock on the bedroom window at 11 PM.  Cool had turned on the bedroom light to change for bed, and the knock came.  Then there was the sound of some tool trying to pry open the window frame.  She didn’t want to call 911 only to find it was a squirrel not an emergency (and she was still a little manic) so she she ran out of the apartment, to the entrance of the back alley.  She held up the flashlight app on her phone, but our window is toward the 300W street-side more, so the person she saw was not detailed.  She DID see a person in black clothing, holding something red (a cigarette or a pen light?) and at our window!  She called 911 and they sent 6 police officers and a dog.  They did an official sweep of the apartment, holding up guns, and calling for intruders.

I wasn’t too, too concerned though.  Because I thought it was probably a crime of opportunity.  There is an apartment on 300 W, and its parking lot is behind their building.  It ajuts to the end of our (dark, abandoned) fire alley.  They must have had problems with prowlers because they no longer park cars behind the building, favoring the side of the building, which is visible to the street.  They also installed a bright light in back.  The light illuminates a portion of our fire alley, but the first window in the dark is ours.  So I figured someone just went to the first dark window they saw.  And the person must have been dumb or not sober.  Because Cool had just turned on the light when she heard a knock–and who breaks into an apartment when the light is on, meaning someone is home?!  And a bunch of cops came in about 5 minutes, so I figured whoever it was went along their way.  And would never be back.

Fri/Sat, Sept 30:  The next door neighbor fixed the hole in the fence between the dark parking lot behind the next apartment and our fire alley.

Sat Oct 1:  I closed the black-out curtains, tucking them between the dresser and the wall.  We are watching a movie in the living room, and there are a lot of people outside their apartments talking, smoking, and drinking.  I hear what I think is Goose fussing with the curtains, trying to get in the window sill to look outside (it’s his fave thing to do).  Thinking he might pull the whole suspension bar holding the curtains down (and holding my dinner at the time) I ask Cool to go in the bedroom and check on him.  She reports someone is knocking on the back window.  I’m scared–who comes back a second time?!  I was too scared to open the curtains and see who it was.  I would be face-to-face with them, and that’s too much!  My adrenaline was pumping from the fear and I banged (3+ times) on the inside of the window with my fist, hoping to scare the would-be intruder away.  I banged a 2nd time (3 loud knocking sounds), while Cool was on the phone with 911.  Whoever was on the other side of the window. . .  Didn’t startle away–they knocked again.  This told me about their frame of mind and made me even more afraid.  I knocked on the thin wall of our bedroom, hoping to get help from the neighbor.

Bronco ran out to the fire alley, but all was quiet.  A police officer arrived about 20 min after our call, and stayed a long time, hearing our story, the neighbor’s opinions, and offering suggestions:  Lights in the alley.  Remove the abandoned/broke-down cars b/c they are a thief/vagrant attractant (and a fire hazard).  Put razor wire along the top of the fence surrounding the alley.  The police officer did not seem impatient or eager to leave.  I could hear calls on his radio on a busy Saturday night, but he made sure to get the whole story and he made sure he answered all of our questions.

We were afraid all the time at this point.  It felt like we were waiting with dreaded anticipation for someone to come back and try to get in.  I was afraid to open the windows.  I didn’t want to shower when I was home.  I was afraid to sleep and let my guard down, in case someone tried to break in.  I checked every noise to make sure it wasn’t someone trying to get in the apartment.  Every time the cats jumped in or out of the window, I was alarmed.  I listened for footsteps in the alley.  I felt stressed and unsafe.  Cool became crazy.  She started hearing things.  She wouldn’t go to sleep when I wasn’t home.  When I finally coerced her to sleep so that she could make it to work in the day, she wouldn’t sleep in the bedroom.  She had all the lights in the apartment turned on all the time–even while she was sleeping.  She started bothering the neighbors, asking them to check the alley.  We were scared in our apartment.

Sun Oct 2:  We were also scared about being away from the apartment for 11 hours, because someone could get inside.  So I took 1.5 hours of vacation and left early (forfeiting some of my weekend double-time) to go guard the house.  We bought a bat, a strong flashlight, and strong, locking bars to block the window and the door closed.  After work at 6:30 PM we inspected the fire alley (carrying the bat) and saw a broken bench was propped up on the chain link fence.  It looked like maybe someone had attempted to throw it away at the dumpster across the parking lot–just my theory.  And someone else came along and dragged it over to use as a step-stool over our fence.  We pushed it away from the fence and it folded in half, making a crunching/squeaking sound.  It ended up about 2 feet away from our fence and folded sort of in half (because it had already been broken).

Mon Oct 3, 1 AM:  I awoke to hear that same bench being moved.  It happened only briefly.  No one came to our window.  In the daylight I checked, and the bench was still away from the chain link fence.  I wasn’t going to mention it to Cool, because she was already freaked, and I wasn’t 100% certain (just 98%), but Cool mentioned she had heard it, so I know it happened, b/c we had both heard it.

Wed Oct 5 a pack of stray cats were eating from our bird feeder and making a tapping sound on the window.  Cool thought it sounded like the knocking of before so she knocked on our neighbor’s wall.  We absolutely know the first 2 incidents were a person though b/c the first time Cool had run outside and actually seen a person.  And the 2nd time, I had banged HARD on the window.  Hard enough that my knuckles were bruised the next day-and I never bruise.  No animal would have sat there for that banging.  And I had done it multiple times, twice.  It would have startled away any animal.  And after I had banged, someone knocked back at me.

Thurs Oct 6, 12:30 PM:  A man was sitting in Bronco and Cough’s parking spot, which is directly across from my living room window.  My curtains had been open.  I took a pic, but his head was down.  He stood and looked into my apartment so I called the non-emergency police line, but before I could complete the call, the man meandered to 300 W.  I asked for police patrol.

11PM:  heard walking in the fire alley and a quiet jangling (like keys in a pocket).

10-6-16:  Texted the apartment manager asking when any safety measures will be taken–never got a response.

10-6-16:  Wrote in official apartment portal-

Someone tried to break into the bedroom window this last Wednesday (9/28) at 10 PM. On that occasion, a person knocked on the window, then used some sort of tool to try to pry the window frame apart. Luckily one of us was home and called 911. We also reported the incident to management the next day, but so far no additional security has been completed. Saturday (10/1) at 8 PM, someone came back to the bedroom window and knocked. I pounded the window to scare them off–and they tapped again. We called 911 a second time, and the officer gave us some tips: 1) The cars on the side of the building are an attractant to burglars and homeless people. Some are also in violation of fire code. 2) Get a motion sensor light. 3) Put razor wire along the top of the entire fence, because someone is probably climbing over. 4) Consider a gate on the back side of the fire alley. I need to feel safe in my apt–please make some changes soon so we don t have to move.

Sat Oct 8, 5 AM:  Saw flashlight through blackout curtains (through sleep mask while sleeping).  But for certain.

Sat Oct 8, 5:10 AM:  Thud on bedroom window.  Goose ran behind curtains and stayed, so it may have been a cat.

Sun 11 PM:  tromping in fire alley (may have been police patrol).

Mon 1:40 PM-police drove by front of apt.

Tues 10/11, 3 PM:  marked police car was sitting on the street next to the park.

Wed, 1 AM-ish:  I got home from work, and the homeless car was parked street-side at our apartments.

Wed 3:15 PM:  the same man that had been sitting in front of the window last Thursday slowly walked past our window toward 300W.  He was with another guy, and they walked slowly, looking in the apartment.  The neighbor also came outside and commented how the two guys had been leering into his apartment–so it wasn’t just me that noticed.  I called the police just to make a report.

Wed 4 PM:  The apartment manager (Royal) was leaving and we caught him.  He has been on the job 4 days Bryson left in Sept?, a woman took over for a week, Dusty was with us for a week or 2, now this guy.  We asked for locks or lighting or safety measures and he said the management company couldn’t do anything–it was all up to the owner.  He was defensive and scoffed in our faces as if we were being hysterical and unreasonable.  He kept saying they are not the police and cannot have 24/7 security.  I tried to tell him there were things that could be done–such as the police suggestions.  Lights for starters.  I also said we were coming from a place of frustration, b/c we were living in fear, and no one from the apartments had even acknowledged our requests/complaints.  And no action had been taken.  He told us he/the management company couldn’t do anything because everything was up to the owner.  We don’t have contact info for the owner.   Royal said the owner wouldn’t do anything–and didn’t have to.  He also told us the housing association doesn’t regulate apartment owners.  The conversation escalated to a confrontation for sure.

Wed 4:30 PM:  The police called back to get a full report of all the incidents.  I recounted the 4 incidents we called about and offered the other 2 that I thought/hoped were the police.

10-13-16, 12:45 AM:  Noticed homeless car parked street-side at our apt as I got home from work.

Oct 15-16:  Started looking for a new apt.  Contacted several options located around work.

10-16-16, 1 AM:  Someone moved the bench.  We then heard footsteps in the back alley.  After an hour, finally called the non-emergency police line to report it.  While on the phone with the dispatcher, flashlight shined in the bedroom.

10/16, 2 AM:  2nd flashlight swept across bedroom–assumed/hoped it was the police.

10/17/16:  Went and looked at a unit in a different apartment complex.  Turned in our application for it.

10/17/16, 2:30 PM:  A homeless man and woman with a bike and a sleeping bag were on the walkway directly above our apartment waiting for the neighbor to get home.

10/17, 12AM:  Possibly homeless car parked street-side by our complex.  Looks slightly different than the homeless car that I remember before, but still the same size and color.  A woman was outside of the car, and stuff was on the complex lawn outside the passenger side.

10/17, 12:35 AM:  Flashlight through bedroom window and footsteps, assumed/hoped it was the police.

10/18/16:  Application for new apartment approved.  The new landlord just needs a reference from our current apartment.  She calls and calls, but cannot get through.  Cool makes a dozen phone calls to random places because our management company has no evident contact information, and we never had contact info for the apartment owner.  Finally, a different complex managed by the same company gets in contact with the regional office who gets in contact with Royal, our apartment manager.  He is annoyed anyone is contacting him.  When Cool asks him to contact this new apartment landlord, Royal off-handedly mentions how our current owner contacted him and said they didn’t want to renew our lease.  We are out at the end of December.  Also, his demeanor on the phone was annoyed/rude.

So I’m not sure,

  1. why, out-of-the-blue the owner (with whom we’ve had ZERO contact) would terminate our “lease.”
  2. I’m suspicious our confrontation with the new manager, Royal, where we asked for ANY security such as lights or removal of concrete blocks and broke-down cars from the fire-alley had everything to do with this given the timing.
  3. We don’t have a lease until December.  The only lease we ever signed for this current complex was the first one when we moved here.  It was for 6 months, and ended October 2015.  That lease specifies that if no other lease is signed, it defaults to a month-to-month arrangement.  And month-to-month is an additional $100/month.  I’m sure we just slipped through the cracks, because it’s been a full year since our original lease expired and no one asked us to sign another lease–or raised our rent price.
  4. I am concerned about an eviction.  I don’t want it on my rental history.  And WHY?  We just passed on info from the police about amping up security.  We’ve paid all our rent, have been quiet, and clean.  We’re actually great tenants.  We just demand things like hot water, flushing toilets, and ask for ANY security measures.
  5. I’m SUPER concerned once they find out we don’t actually have a lease through December, they will put us out in 15 days, without cause, per our original lease conditions.  That’s October 30.  Our new apartment isn’t vacated and available to us until Nov 15. . .  And that’s before any carpet replacement or painting that they will surely do, driving the date back.
  6. We had to band over backwards to contact the manager–and he had already known about our non-lease renewal–when was he going to mention this to us??!
  7. I’m so, so, so glad we were all but in a new apartment at that point, because this news would have REALLY flipped me out if we had to start from scratch.  It’s not always easy to get into a new apartment.  Especially with cats–and he have a price range that can’t budge b/c we had absolutely no notice or time to plan/save.

later that day (10/18/16) I typed up a formal notice of termination for the current apartment.  It asked that we get a walk-though in order to redeem our deposit, and that we leave last day of December (or mid-Dec if they are willing to pro-rate rent).  And I typed it into the apartment portal online.  There is no formal address to mail it to, and that makes me nervous.

10/19/16:  Dropped formal leaving letter off where we drop rent, since we have no contact info for the management or owner, and there is no formal office for anything, and we can’t even send it certified mail.

10/20/16:  Paid $400 deposit at new apartment.

10/21/16:  Our letter with prospective move-out date still hasn’t been acknowledged.

10/24/16, 12:30 PM:  A group of 3-6 people dressed in rags had a bike and shopping cart and bags on the sidewalk between our complex and the studio property next door.  They seemed to be hanging around, and I wondered if that was a new bus stop or if the park was doing some kind of maint and asked them to step off that property for a time.

2:35 PM:  When Cool got home from work the group was still loitering around on the sidewalk.  We closed all of our curtains b/c where they were standing had a direct view in our apartment.  After we did our afternoon workout, about 3-ish PM, I looked out and they had moved along.

10/25/16:  Our letter with prospective move-out date still hasn’t been acknowledged.  Cool called a lot of numbers trying to see what recourse we have if they just never respond.  Because I don’t want to go and get slapped with abandonment fees.  No one knows–everyone just gave her more phone numbers to try.  We texted the number for the apartment managers and heard nothing.  So Cool called the number.  Royal is no longer our person.  Now we have Brian.  This is the 5th manager we’ve had since August (2 months).

10/28/16:  Still haven’t heard anything about our lease (they think we have), and acknowledgement of our end date, or a walk through.

10/29/16, 5-ish PM:  Saw the police go to apt #2, two doors down.  Eddie, who lives there, said someone in a red hoodie had banged on his front window (blinds closed) and shouted his name.  The police and Eddie came to our door, because we were peering out our (blinds open) window, and since we had had trouble with banging on our window.

10/30/16, 3PM:  The homeless car parked inside the laundry area.  Looked they’d been in our apt complex for awhile and were very comfortable here.

11/1/16, 10:38:  Noticed the homeless car in the complex parking-lot by the laundry area.

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