What should I do about this unauthorized entry in my apartment building?
May 13, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

An unknown person let themselves into my neighbors apartment, stole her pot, and then left, and my landlord isn't doing anything about it. I'm wondering what I should do now, if anything. Details at length inside.

I live in a 16-unit building in a small town in Western Massachusetts. Possibly relevant information: We are moving out at the end of the month. A new landlord bought the building in November, made some improvements, and has increased the rent 25% since then, turning what was once an affordable home for retired people, young families like mine, and single mothers, one of whom has a disabled son, into a place that is marginally nicer but unaffordable for the people who have lived here for years. He has explicitly told me that he wants to make all the current tenants move so he can renovate and charge higher rents, which he has done to the vacant apartments, and he doesn't want "working class" people living here. My neighbor is a 60-something transwoman who has lived here for 11 years, and is a few years from retiring from her building maintenance job.

On Saturday my husband and I saw someone let themselves into our across-the-hall neighbor's apartment (through the peephole), stay for a few minutes, and then leave. My husband was walking by our door when he heard someone come up the stairs and looked out to see if there was someone leaving a note, since the landlord is constantly leaving notices for everyone. After he saw the guy go in he told me to come look, so I watched him leave. He let himself in with a key and then locked the door after he left.

We thought it was just a painter or one of the many workers around here lately, and later that day saw the painter and his son, who was wearing a black hat like the guy we saw, working on the outside of the building. We didn't think much of it, other than that it seemed a little odd, until Sunday when our neighbor came over to ask if we had seen anyone in her apartment because her small pot stash was missing when she came home on Saturday. We told her what we saw, and she called the landlord. He basically blew her off, said that we "don't like" him, and said that he would talk to the painters, but it was probably the former manager's husband because he suspects him of having a drug problem. (This former manager quit suddenly and last I heard was pursuing a sexual harassment lawsuit because he repeatedly let himself into her apartment, including one time when she was in the shower and refused to leave when she told him to. We have also heard from other tenants that he has let himself into their apartments without notice.) Later that evening he called my husband to find out what we saw and told him the same thing about suspecting the manager.

I emailed him on Monday to find out what he was doing to ensure the safety of us and everyone else in the building and he told me he was "investigating," we're leaving soon so we should be safe for two weeks, and "good luck in your new home." Today the painter came to my door and told me he would never do something like that, his son wouldn't, sorry if I felt unsafe, etc. I emailed the landlord back and said I didn't appreciate him telling the painter we said it was him, if he truly thinks a drug addicted former manager has keys to the building I hope he plans on changing the locks, and that though we're moving soon everyone else in the building deserves to know they are safe and secure too. He answered, in full, "Thank you for your thoughts. Good luck in your new home."

So. What do I do now? Contact the police? Tell everyone else in the building what happened? Let it go? This whole situation is so shady, but even without the alleged pot stealing it is a problem that some random person was able to let himself into an apartment. I just can't tell if my judgment about this is clouded by my irritation with the landlord and his ongoing bullshittery.
posted by apricot to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're going to stay for more than another day, install your own lock (or get a locksmith to rekey your door) ASAP. It's a drag to put money into a place you're about to leave, but this isn't something I would mess around with.
posted by zachlipton at 5:59 PM on May 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Many areas in the US have tenant's rights associations. I would contact yours, even if you personally are leaving, plenty of others aren't. I would also strongly consider a camera setup to see if anyone enters your apartment without notice; it really isn't ok for anyone to be entering your unit without notice.
posted by nat at 7:01 PM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Definately change your locks: it'll be worth it, since you're now on the painter's and his son's radar.

As for calling the police: a question --- is pot legal where you are? If no, then there's a good reason why your neighbor doesn't want to make a police report. Either way, to report or not is her decision, not yours.
posted by easily confused at 7:10 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not sure where in Montague you are (if that bit of your profile is still accurate), and if so, what building you're in, but my advice would depend a lot on whether you need a common key to get into the building, or whether each unit has only one key. If it's the latter, your neighbor might have given out many copies of her key over the years, or previous tenants might have done so. In that case, it's unpleasant for her, but probably not an issue for you, since you're moving soon. If there's a common building key involved, though, you might want to be more active in keeping an eye on unusual comings and goings.

You can find out more about tenants' rights in Massachusetts here: A Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Tenant Rights and Responsibilities (PDF).
posted by brianogilvie at 7:32 PM on May 13, 2014

Best answer: Obviously this is not safe, reference this case if needed. My daughter lived at these apartments at the time this happened and had the maintenance come in while she was in the shower also. Make sure all the neighbors are aware that this man has unauthorized access to their apartments.
posted by tamitang at 7:38 PM on May 13, 2014

Uh, was nothing else stolen? How did the thief know where the pot stash was, since, it was presumably stashed away? Is there someone close to the neighbor who would be a probable suspect instead?
posted by suedehead at 8:11 PM on May 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

rekey your lock if you suspect an unauthorized person has a key to it, otherwise do nothing, because you're leaving at the end of the month and this isn't any of your business. your opportunity to do something passed when you decided not to confront the intruder. the problem of someone habitually accessing women's apartments will solve itself when he does this to the wrong woman and she sprays him with .38 spl copper-jacketed hollow points.
posted by bruce at 8:32 PM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was thinking the same thing suedehead. It sounds like the person that went in there has or had some personal connection to the tenant, or had least been in that apartment in a friendly manner with the occupant. Unless they're extremely flippant about their weed use, most people wouldn't wipe out the weed to a total stranger or put it away in an extremely obvious place during a party setting.
posted by ZaneJ. at 8:37 PM on May 13, 2014

Pretty sure just straight rekeying your door or adding another private lock could get you in real trouble with the landlord you're leaving. And if your apparment doors aren't a security lock like primus or multlock but regular old kwickset or schlage etc. I'd say its likely the issue is more about copies she gave out than a general alarm.
posted by Carillon at 9:02 PM on May 13, 2014

Response by poster: Yeah, the whole how he found the pot thing is strange to me too. My neighbor said it was in a little box in her desk drawer in her living room, so pretty well hidden. The painters were in and out of our apartments for several hours a few weeks ago, including some time when she was gone, so he could have been snooping then.

She does not have anyone visit her, ever, and would not give her key out, and anyway the whole building was re-keyed about 6 months ago so there wouldn't be old spare keys floating around. Apparently there is a master key that will open all the apartments in the building, and I don't know how many of those there are or who has access to them. I do know the painter has one when he is working because he showed it to me today.
posted by apricot at 9:14 PM on May 13, 2014

Response by poster: Oh, and my husband works from home and I'm a grad student on break (I have actually met you, brianogilvie!), so we should be able to have one of us be home at all times for the next couple of weeks. Beyond that I think I'll see what I can find in the way of tenants rights. Maybe something through the university.
posted by apricot at 9:21 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would write this off as a loss and move out ASAP. Don't wait for someone to get murdered in your apartment complex?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:53 AM on May 14, 2014

Also, calling the cops because your weed is gone seems like a pretty bad plan in the United States.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:56 AM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Let's say for the sake of argument that the pot was not stolen, nothing was taken. If someone lets themselves into your home without your permission, I would think it is trespassing. You can report someone of stealing an illegal substance from your home, but maybe that isn't a good idea since it is illegal. I would certainly change my locks. You (or your neighbor, I should say) CAN report unlawful entry/trespassing (with you as a witness,) but your neighbor (I am guessing) is not going to recover the pot or the monetary value of it, so why report that?
posted by Yellow at 7:59 AM on May 14, 2014

If you want to add an extra lock that can prevent someone from getting in (when you are inside) even if they have the key, this is a handy little device: Addalock
posted by ainsley at 8:03 AM on May 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Has the neighbor smoked pot with anyone recently, who would know where she keeps her pot?

Total speculation, but it sounds like something a curious/badly disciplined teenager, or a shitty neighbor would do -- not considered "actual theft" by the thief, since stealing pot is expensive, inconvenient, but not totally debilitating / harmful like stealing a TV or a computer, etc. In the way that eating someone else's food in the fridge is shitty, but done by people who wouldn't consider themselves a 'thief', since food is consumable and somehow understood along different lines than other forms of private property.

How old is the painter's son?
posted by suedehead at 10:27 AM on May 14, 2014

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