Tenant murdered on my property. What to do now? - Posted by David

Posted by Phil on October 23, 2003 at 03:09:42:

How about letting a couple of nice police officers have an apartment at a discount? Condition for the discount is for them to walk the grounds a couple of times a day/night. Or maybe special police only parking place(s) close to their apartment. The idea of the parking space is not the space, it’s the car parked in it. If you had an officer from night shift and day shift, there might be a police car there 24/7. Talk to the police chief or the elected sheriff. They might know who is looking to move. When you get them in, then send out a letter to the residents asking them to welcome their new neighbors. Sort of on site security with a badge. I have lived in apartments that have done this. I felt pretty safe.

Tenant murdered on my property. What to do now? - Posted by David

Posted by David on October 21, 2003 at 20:59:55:

I own a 72 unit apartment complex. Last week one of my tenants was murdered as he sat at his kitchen table. We, as management, had suspected him of dealing in drugs but lacking concrete evidence failed to act. It is the third murder this year in this city and has been widely reported locally in the newspapers and on television. Unfortunately, he was dead for five or six days before he was discovered. (The tenant upstairs had been complaining for a couple of days about an odd smell in her unit.) The police called us Thursday to open up his unit as a friend was concerned that she had not been able to contact the tenant all week.

The property is truly NOT a drug haven nor it is a crime-infested dive. It IS in an older part of town (as most properties near state universities are)and houses a mix of students and working class tenants.

I just returned from the property this evening and have been talking to my tenants. Many are frightened. The police have talked to each and every one of them in looking for clues to solve this case. I have already had four or five tenants tell me that they are going to break their lease and move as soon as possible.

I am concerned now with damage control. I am considering the following actions.
a. Write a letter to the tenants this week explaining what we intend to do in beefing up security and assuring them of our resolve in this matter and our regret over what has happened.

b. Host an event on the grounds and invite the chief of police to attend in an effort to establish community.

c. In a few months after the press coverage has subsided, improve the property in some way and rename it.

I am looking for additional ideas. Has anyone out there on this board encountered a similar situation and what did you to do deal with it? Did you encounter much fallout?? It is truly a landlords worst nightmare. I find it ironic that landlords who care nothing about their properties can go a lifetime and never experience what we have experienced this week. But crime, I guess, is often just a random thing. Unfortunately, it is a big black eye ( at least for now ) on my property. I can no longer tell my tenants that we have never had a serious crime committed on that property. Your ideas would be welcome. Thanks so much

keep your head up - Posted by Chris

Posted by Chris on October 22, 2003 at 20:16:42:


Sorry to hear about your situation.

Recently, I received a phone call from an angry neighbor regarding the “4 day homicide investigation at my rental property”. Needless to say this caught me off guard. Fortunately the crime was not in this home but the accusor was living there.

If handled correctly this may not be too bad. Things happen. When you have 72 units in 1 building things are going to happen that are out of your control.

Keep your head up.


Be Careful what you put in writing…? - Posted by JT-IN

Posted by JT-IN on October 22, 2003 at 10:26:36:


This is a tradgic situation and I feel for your position, and know that the duress must be immense. I unfortunately cannot offer what must be the correct steps to take in this instance, however, I did think of something else here… in the form of a caveat.

You state: “We, as management, had suspected him of dealing in drugs but lacking concrete evidence failed to act.” and also… “Write a letter to the tenants this week…”

I would run everything past your Atty that you put in writing to Tenants or others, including keeping posts of your feelings, such as this one here on cre to a minimum. This post and other written communication, especially if it contains admission of guilt (partial liability for an occurance) may come back to haunt you… This could happen in the form of Tenants claiming costs for moving, counseling, and the like.

Maybe I am being too sensitive (or some may see it as insensitive) here, but in this day and age of LITIGATION for every thing under the sun, you must be careful… I would consult with a privately retained Atty, as well as put your insurance carrier “on-notice”. Their Atty’s may be better poised to offer suggestions that may limit your liability, as well as what they suggest to communicate to Tenants, etc…

I hope all turns out as well as can be expected for you here. This business is anything but a Walk in the Park… on days like this one. Please stay in touch and inform us as to the outcome on this ordeal.


Who you gonna call? . . . - Posted by DaveD (WI)

Posted by DaveD (WI) on October 22, 2003 at 08:15:40:

. . . OK, perhaps not Ghostbusters. But that was the first thing that came to mind when you’re dealing with a freaky situation. I think your instincts are right on target.

Folks move when they feel unsafe and unsure. A confused mind always says “no.”

The facts are someone died there under suspect circumstances. You can’t change that. Your challenge therefore is one of marketing and communications.

Folks moved into your units because they perceived value from it. Their unit is their home. You need to appeal to those emotions once again. If managed right, this could have a very positive impact on your tenant family, drawing them closer together. Folks are remarkably strong when they feel “we’re in this together.”

If marketing and communications are not your strong suit, then by all means get some professional help. Skimping here could prove to be very expensive. Four or five quick vacancies can spiral into an empty building in short time because of the human nature involved in “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

You’ve got a lot of work to do. Hope things work out.
All the best…

9 ideas off the top of my head - Posted by rm

Posted by rm on October 22, 2003 at 08:05:05:


Ask the police for documentation on this, but I’ve heard several times that the vast majority of murders are committed by people who know the victim. Use this information to help calm the people. "Are you in danger? If you’re involved with the sale of drugs, etc. then yes, you have something to worry about. If not, then… Try to get the letter signed by the police chief, the mayor, etc.

Maybe have a few meetings with your tenants- give them a full accounting of all the safety measures you’ve already taken (screening, etc) to ensure a safe environment.

Also, you mentioned the possibility of drug activity… was this reported by the tenants? Find out from law enforcement what measures can be taken to increase surveillance on suspects, including steps the tenants can take to aid the process without endangering their safety.

Find ways to get them involved. If you create an environment where you’re doing all the work, then you’ll be doing all the work, and the success/failure of the program will fall on your shoulders. Find ways to get them invested in your “community,” if you have one there.

Send a letter to all tenants asking them to report any drug-related/criminal activity on the property, however minor. Be sure to insure their anonymity.

Meet with them to see if they have any safety concerns or suggestions for what management hasn’t already done, as well as any suggestions as to what they, as tenants, can do to prevent this from happening again.

Establish and implement a “ten-point plan,” endorsed by your police chief/local law enforcement. Make sure that this exceeds the standards of other properties. Make sure to update the tenants monthly on all the actions you’re taking.

Lastly, you may, in the next 60 days, offer to renew existing leases at this year’s/last year’s rate.

You could do a “Kick me- I’m down” type of promotion, ie, "As you know, we’ve owned/managed this property for x years and have NEVER had any incidents- no rapes, no larceny, etc… and have taken measures to ensure your personal safety, and are implementing this 10-point plan to prevent this type of thing from happening again.

Hey, you know what? With ideas such as this, the ones that you come up with, and massive action, this incident could turn out to be a HUGE positive for you and your company.

Good luck.

Good Post Dave nt. - Posted by phil fernandez

Posted by phil fernandez on October 22, 2003 at 17:55:58:


Re: 9 ideas off the top of my head - Posted by David

Posted by David on October 22, 2003 at 22:52:21:

Thanks guys for all the ideas. I appreciate SO much the collective wisdom of all of you. It has been a great help in getting those creative wheels rolling.

The plan now is to host an event probably as soon as a week from Sunday with local law enforcement in attendance. I am hoping that both the chief of police from the city and the elected sheriff from the county will attend. We want very much to communicate what we are doing now and will continue to do in the future. I will post back here about how it goes.

Several more tenants have called in the last two days requesting that we release them from their leases. I have had to explain that it is just not possible for me to do so (the place could empty out completely if I just opened the door like that) and that they need to not panic but wait for the emotions to subside.

Any other ideas on how to deal with tenants who want to leave would be greatly appreciated.

As I have indicated before we are not in the best part of town but neither it is the worst. A brand new apartment complex has just been completed directly across the street from my units with a cost of somewhere in the $15-20 million dollar range. I am going to speak with the management there and would be interested to know whether they are experiencing any fallout. They are housing mostly students from rich families. The parking lot has many fancy cars (corvettes, mercedes, lexus etc.) My thoughts are that now might be an excellent time to spend mega-bucks on completely refurbishing my units to compete with what is across the street. Doing that would allow me to attract more rents and a better quality tenant I believe. Again your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks