Homes my clients rented

Homes my clients rented

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Renters: the great ignored

Barney Doran, Delray Beach Opinion originally published in the Sun Sentinel

Now that John McCain has proposed that the U.S. government buy up $300 billion in mortgages, write down the outstanding amounts and lower the payments for the homeowners, it is time for the voices of America's 34 million renting households to be heard. Please note this constitutes approximately 135 million people and roughly 65 million potential voters. Americans are regaled daily in the media with the vicissitudes of the homeowners who were "forced" into dwellings by rapacious bankers and mortgage brokers. How about the 7 million rental households with annual incomes under $10,000 who pay over half that income on rent? Haven't heard too much about them in this great national brouhaha, have you? But not only the poor rent in this country. Twenty percent of rental households (6.8 million equating to approximately 27.2 million Americans) make over $60,000 a year.

Back in the heady days of house gambling, don't you think they received calls at dinner time from mortgage brokers offering zero-down, no-income-verification, no-credit-check mortgages? Yes, they did, but they were either reluctant to get entangled, or they realized this was one big casino. In other words, they didn't take the bait, but the fish across the street in foreclosure did and is about to be bailed out by the government. The sober renter, however, is being totally ignored, even though his rent was increased during the housing Vegas days because of "rising property values."

Is it fair that his tax dollars are going to bail out a greedy/stupid neighbor? I don't think America's renters are going to think so. But I do think the politicians representing these renters will ignore this inequity at their peril. These voices will be heard.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Peeping Landlord

Pennsylvania landlord was arrested for taping female tenants. Thomas Daley, a 45-year-old Phoenixville man whom authorities said owns three apartment buildings in Norristown having a combined total of 16 apartments, is charged with invasion of privacy, criminal use of a communication facility and violations of the wiretap and surveillance laws.

County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Daley, of the 1000 block of Spring City Road, installed hidden cameras and audio equipment in three of the four apartments in a building he owns in the 500 block of Stanbridge Street.

This equipment, which was hidden in bathrooms, bedrooms and living rooms, was hooked up to enable him to spy on the private activities of his clients from his computer at home for his own sexual gratification, according to Ferman.

"This is just creepy at its worst," said Ferman.

The alleged victims "feel completely violated," said Ferman.

"This kind of personal invasion is just harrowing," said Ferman. "These victims just now are finding out that their most private, most personal times in their own homes have been captured on videotape and that somebody else has been watching them for their own personal gratification."

"To say it is unnerving, to say it is disconcerting doesn't even begin to express how upset they are," she said.

Ferman called the charges against Daley for the property in the 500 block of Stanbridge Street just "the tip of the iceberg."

Norristown police have been interviewing past and former tenants of the other two buildings throughout the weekend and on Monday, and "we expect many additional charges," said Ferman. Authorities suspect that Daley may have been engaged in this type of activity for almost 20 years.

Police first learned of Daley's alleged activities on Sept. 18 when one of the Stanbridge Street tenants contacted 911 to report she had found a hidden camera behind the bathroom mirror in her apartment. The woman's boyfriend was changing a light bulb in the bathroom when he spotted a small micro "pinhole" style video camera hard-wired into the wall.

Police said the wires appeared to go from the first-floor apartment down into the basement. The tenant told police that the landlord kept the basement area locked and did not allow tenants access.

While waiting for Daley to arrive at the apartment building, police discovered another camera, similar to the one in the bathroom, in the living room.

When Daley arrived, police learned that there was another camera in the bedroom ceiling fan pointed down at the bed and a fourth one in the bathroom, according to the criminal complaint. They also learned of cameras in two of the other three apartments in the building, the complaint said.

Daley later gave police a statement allegedly admitting that he installed the cameras, some of which were activated when a tenant turned on a light switch. Some of the cameras recorded on a VHS system that was in the basement while other digital cameras fed a digital video recorder, also stored in the basement.

In addition to being able to record what was happening in the apartments, Daley said he could access the DVR system from his computer at home and get a live feed. He also could turn the cameras on and off from his home computer, according to the criminal complaint.

Daley allegedly told police he would save the VHS tapes and, if he viewed an act he liked, he would record the video on the digital recorder and save them, the complaint said.

Police confiscated Daley's computer equipment and electronic taping and recording equipment as well as numerous tapes and DVDs. Some of those tapes showed the four alleged female victims in various states of partial and full nudity while in the privacy of their residences.

"This system was a very sophisticated and elaborate," said Ferman. "Mr. Daley, in the privacy of his own home, could invade the privacy of his tenants."

By Margaret Gibbons, Special to The Mercury