Realtor Home Invasion
April 26, 2007 6:40 AM   Subscribe

I caught the estate agent, who is handling the sale of the apartment I have just been evicted from, snooping through my stuff.

I have been making a point of going out since I find sitting there while people look at our place awkward. Today I came home while the guy was still there and he was rifling through some of my work papers that I had been working on. Nothing critical but still I won't be doing that anymore. However, this man has keys to our place and no respect for our privacy. I'll be away for 2 weeks soon. What can I do about it?
posted by srboisvert to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd set up a nanny cam and tell him about it.
posted by OmieWise at 6:48 AM on April 26, 2007

Ask on the newsgroup.
posted by grouse at 6:52 AM on April 26, 2007

Change your locks before you leave. You have been evicted but you are not out yet. I'm no lawyer but as a tenant you have a right to privacy. If he wants to show people around he needs your permission. When renting I never let either my landlords or estate agents into my house while I wasn't there.

Go to citizens advice and see what they say.
posted by twistedonion at 7:10 AM on April 26, 2007

Call the company that the agent works for and the person who is selling the apartment and tell them that you caught him going through your private effects and that you are absolutely not comfortable with him entering your house any more, whether you're home or not. They need to find a different agent to show the house. As long as you are legally entitled to live there, I would think you also retain the right to decide who enters the house, whether you are home or not. I'm not sure about this at all, but you may be within your legal rights to refuse them access to your home entirely while you are away - especially if you are being evicted through no fault of your own (i.e., just because the owner decided to sell the property).
posted by Wroksie at 7:11 AM on April 26, 2007

Don't say anything to him. Stick a nice size rat trap underneath a "tempting" pile of papers, let him rifle through all he likes and watch his fingers get slammed off on the nanny cam that you set up while you are out of town.

And be sure to put it on on Youtube!
posted by bkeene12 at 7:15 AM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

no dude, not a rat trap....
you need a cardboard box, some books at the bottom, a thin cloth covering the books, and between the books and the cloth, a full-size bear trap. when his hand triggers the bear trap, he will be enlightened.

and be sure to put it on youtube!
posted by bruce at 8:06 AM on April 26, 2007

Okay, okay, I know the mousetrap ideas are jokes, but I just want to make clear: Even though it's your own apartment, these things are illegal. Don't do it.

(Sorry to be the funkiller.)
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 8:37 AM on April 26, 2007


IANAL, but is it really "illegal" to set a trap in your own home? If a criminal (in this case the landlord) enters your house, illegally (without permission), and snoops through your things and is hurt, can you really be held accountable? I doubt there's many judges who would convict on that, but I admittedly know nothing about the law.
posted by dead_ at 8:50 AM on April 26, 2007

IANAL, but is it really "illegal" to set a trap in your own home? If a criminal (in this case the landlord) enters your house, illegally (without permission), and snoops through your things and is hurt, can you really be held accountable?

Haven't we all heard the stories of criminals who hurt themselves while robbing a house, and are able to sue the homeowners? I don't know if these are urban legends or not. But this person isn't robbing the house, and has a reasonable expectation of safety.

I like the webcam/nannycam idea, and just put up a sign that says that the premises are being monitored. Also, I would get a lockbox or locking trunk to put anything of value or that you want to keep private.
posted by catfood at 8:53 AM on April 26, 2007

If you left a trap with the intention that the estate agent would be harmed by it or if you recklessly disregarded the probability that he would be harmed by it, and then he was harmed by it, then yes, that would be a criminal offence in England and Wales. So don't do that.

If the trap were sufficient to potentially cause grievous bodily harm, it would be a criminal offence just to set the trap, even if no one were actually harmed by it.
posted by grouse at 9:09 AM on April 26, 2007

Call the company, make a formal complaint. I would imagine there is some regulatory body that oversees real estate agents.
If this person continues to show the property, then perhaps it would be best to remain while they show it, and verbally state in front of the prospective buyers why you are remaining each and every time he shows the place.

legal issues aside, don't set up rat traps, or anything that cause physical harm (anyone can sue anyone for anything, whether or not they win the case is another matter entirely)
posted by edgeways at 9:30 AM on April 26, 2007

I disagree with the nannycam/lockbox ideas. Both of those ideas are expensive and a lot of bother. I mean, he can get cameras and lockboxes if he wants to throw the money around, but I think it's the responsibility of the estate agent and the seller to go to the trouble to make sure that his privacy is respected and to protect his right to feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed in his home (or about his home, if he's away). A new agent should be assigned to show the property, and that agent should arrive and leave with the people who are looking at the property. If more than one showing is arranged consecutively, the agent should wait outside or in his car if one potential buyer doesn't arrive at the exact moment the other leaves. At no time should the agent be alone in the house.
posted by Wroksie at 9:30 AM on April 26, 2007

Call his employer, ask to speak to the legal dept. or the head of the company, and let them know what you found. They will probably terminate him(?) as soon as they can without incurring some sort of liability. If it hasn't occurred to you that he may have developed a sideline in selling information such as identities, or credit cards, or access codes, or about possible takeovers, etc., it will to them-- instantly. I'm sure agents have done this kind of thing often enough in the past that they are on guard against it.

If you really want to make trouble, or if they dismiss your complaint out of hand (there is always the possibility of complicity) call the authorities.

If you do make a complaint, be prepared to find that he has made some sort of allegation already that you are hostile or difficult-- it's almost a standard thing he could and should have done to insulate himself from consequences when you discovered his activities.
posted by jamjam at 9:40 AM on April 26, 2007

Lock up things you don't want him seeing. The end.
posted by ilsa at 10:57 AM on April 26, 2007

Re: Traps

Don't the tabloids go nuts about this kind of thing? I only lived in the UK for a year, but "Snooping estate agent sues for snapped fingers" seems like a front page story to me. Except with puns. Unless the agent lost a finger, I can't imagine why he'd want to go to the trouble and to expose himself as a snoop for a nominal damage award.
posted by jaysus chris at 11:22 AM on April 26, 2007

Laying traps is illegal in the US, not sure about the UK.
posted by electroboy at 11:48 AM on April 26, 2007

electroboy: see my comment above. The latter situation is covered by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 s 31 and punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
posted by grouse at 11:54 AM on April 26, 2007

Indeed setting traps for poachers used to be quite common - man traps and spring guns particularly. But as Grouse points out this was too cruel even for the Victorians. I'd write to the estate agent's boss - but knowing what swine a lot of estate agents are I wouldn't hold my breath...
posted by prentiz at 4:22 PM on April 26, 2007

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