If, like me, you grew up in a community that had a live-and-let-live attitude, it might be difficult to believe my story. Let me begin with a few of the events contributing to the constellation of circumstances in place before the mobbing began.
- The recession happened. Neighborhoods and home owners, including this one, were the site of short sales and foreclosures. Realtors could make no sales; many of those working in construction could find no work for the first time in their careers. Speculation (and speculators) fell flat.
- For the first time in a long time, it was a renters’ market. Houses that would have been acquired and “flipped” by speculators could not be sold. Newspapers featured articles about how it didn’t make sense to buy. Owners losing their shirts resented renters free of underwater mortgages. Owners blamed owners who bought houses on high-interest loans with no down for their own troubles as well as for the downturn in the market.
- I rented my house in a neighborhood that had apparently already piqued the interest of developers and realtors. An old lakeside community with lots left to buy and room to build. There were older houses to replace with new houses, as well as lots old and new, a few of them multiple-family dwellings.
- The neighborhood was markedly more conservative than the Seattle neighborhood in which I had spent most of the last 15 years.
- The neighborhood affords privacy to those with lots that have not been divided or built up against. Other houses, however, old and new, stand close to the property lines and within 10 to 15 fifteen feet of their neighbors’ windows. In the case of my own home, builders sited the newer structures within 10 feet of my windows. And in this lakefront community, most houses were built with many windows.
- Several of the houses nearby had been lost to their owners and more were on the brink of falling.
- The neighborhood had an active neighborhood watch organization. My house is located very close to one of the watch organizers. By the time I was told that she was extremely passive-aggressive and vindictive, it was too late. I was told she’d also come close to losing her house and that was why she had started to take in renters.
- My neighborhood includes at least a few people who have held or now hold managerial level positions working for the City of Seattle.
- My neighborhood includes at least a few people who work in real estate, including at least one describing herself as a “real estate investor”.
- Numerous of the houses whose residents seem to support or be involved in my mobbing were sold by the same real estate company, a few of them by the same agent.
- I was later told that within weeks of my moving in, the watch organizer who lived closest to me told my landlady she had a good tenant for her. My landlady told her she already had a good tenant. Within months, the watch organizer was complaining to my landlords about everything I did, and making up some nifty stories about me too.
- Ground was broken near me on a lot that had been acquired before I moved in. The tires of my cars, parked legally in front of my house, began to be chalked on a weekly basis. As construction proceeded, temporary no parking zones were declared for the parking spaces in front of my house, with members of the construction crew hassling me about my parking and telling me they could have me towed. Other events followed.
- Slowly, construction picked up and new houses began to be built in my neighborhood. Last summer when my mobbing began, there were easily twenty houses for sale over just a few streets in my neighborhood, probably six of them newly developed.
- The real estate market recovered enough so that houses in my neighborhood began to be sold. The houses on either side of me were sold within a month or two of each other. Two single men, both of them professionals from respected fields, moved in on either side of me. The girlfriend of one of them, I was told by one of their friends, was from a family with some money. That didn’t impress me but based on the professions of the owners, I assumed their presence would shut the harassment down. Instead, it got worse. An active bullying situation evolved.
- The mother of one of the new owners told me that most renters “weren’t very good people.” Within months, I heard the father of the same owner assure his son, who stood outside on his veranda pointing and complaining about my legally parked vehicles, “Don’t worry, we’ll get her out.”
- In no more than a few months later, I heard the shrill voice of the watch organizer from an evening gathering at the house of the other new owner: “And she won’t even park in her driveway!”
The alliance was formed, and as time went on I concluded that a chain of events had been set into motion well before the new owners even moved in on either side of me. Over the next two years before the mobbing began, an increasingly bizarre string of events would unfold.