Are trespassing drug addicts threatening your property’s safety?

Amanda Maher
Amanda Maher | 5 min. read

Published on August 12, 2015

Late rent payments. Loud parties. Destruction of property. The list goes on and on. For property owners, there’s nothing worse than a problem tenant—except, maybe, when people who aren’t tenants start causing problems at the owner’s expense.

Today’s story brings us across the pond to Cork, Ireland, where residents of Pope’s Quay Court have become increasingly frustrated by drug addicts who sneak onto the property, get high, and leave behind drug paraphernalia. The photos paint a horrifying picture, with dirty heroin needles and bloody cotton balls strewn throughout the property.

“In the evenings or at night time, we’d often find two or three people shooting up at the bottom of the stairs,” says one anonymous male resident. “My flatmate was even physically threatened by these people on one or two occasions while asking them to leave.”

The property management company, Choices Property Management, hired an on-call cleaning company so that whenever an incident is reported, it can be taken care of immediately. But it’s proven a futile effort.  Needles turn up again just a few days—or hours—later.

So Choices Property Management beefed up its building security. By transitioning from key-coded gates to fob-entry, the company provided another layer of protection, thereby ensuring that only residents with access to a fob can enter the building. The problems, nevertheless, continued.

Unbeknownst to the landlord, two sex workers were living at Pope’s Quay Court. They were leaving a door ajar for their clients, overriding the need for a fob and in turn providing easy access for addicts.

At this point, the property management company had no choice but to get the police involved. But as Cormac Aherne, a spokesman for Choices Property Management explains, even the police can only do so much: “The gardai (state police) would evict the (addicts) but it’s a short-term solution. It’s potentially only a day or two away from them getting back in and causing more damage.”

How to Rid Your Property of Criminal Trespassers

In a situation like this, what’s a landlord to do? This scenario is much more than a nuisance. Families and young children live in these apartments, and it’s only a matter of time before a child stumbles upon a filthy syringe. The breadth of the problem has truly created a public health hazard.

When confronted with unwanted guests, here are some important steps a property manager or landlord can take:

  • Increase building security. Properties that are left unsecured leave the building, and its tenants, vulnerable to all sorts of risk. Here, it was the loitering of drug addicts. But it could just as easily turn a property into an unofficial shelter for the homeless or a target for burglars.
  • Perform thorough background checks. This might seem obvious to property managers—but in this case, the drug addicts weren’t actually tenants. But as Choices Property Management soon learned, it was because of two tenants—the sex workers—that the addicts were able to enter the building. Be sure to conduct background checks and reference checks with prospective tenants’ prior landlords, and verify sources of income.  Tenants who insist on paying cash may have something to hide. In this case, the property manager may have learned that the problem tenants were relying on illegal sexual activity as their source of income.
  • Identify problem tenants—then terminate leases or evict, if necessary. Sure, it would be ideal if property managers were able to weed out all problem tenants before signing a lease. In reality, there are always some who slip through the cracks. Choices Property Management worked diligently with residents to identify the two problems tenants who were largely contributing to the addicts’ access to the property. The management company could not evict the tenants based upon suspicion alone, so they engaged the local police who investigated the illegal activity in greater detail. Based on the findings of such an investigation, a landlord usually can either opt not to renew the lease upon its expiration, terminate the lease for breach of contract (depending on the language in the lease), or begin eviction proceedings.
  • Work with the police, city council, and community groups. Despite the landlord’s best efforts, there was only so much that could be done to address the continued drug abuse. Even if the property was secured and problem tenants evicted, there is little to prevent addicts from loitering around the property or on the front stoop. Informing the police, city council, and community groups can ensure a wholesale approach to an issue that plagues not just property owners, but communities at large. Together, these groups can identify strategies for addressing the root causes of the problem, whether it is expanding access to treatment options or other measures.

While the situation at Pope’s Quay Court was certainly a horrific one, it’s not a problem unique to Cork. As Cork City Councilor Thomas Gould so aptly pointed out, “This can happen anywhere. It just shows how much drug usage is going on, and it’s no longer an issue affecting just one social class.” Landlords in the U.S. often face the same challenges and can take the same precautions, regardless of geographic location.

Have you had similar challenges in dealing with illicit drug users or other criminals on your property? What strategies did you use? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

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Amanda Maher

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a master's in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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