Real estate mobbing, with strong civil and criminal components, is a two-pronged approach to turning over a property based on constant complaints of civil and criminal code violations side-by-side with a “surround-sound” method of clandestine criminal harassment in which “mobbers” work as “tenant relocators” from the flanking residences. Real estate mobbing, also referred to as “property mobbing,” puts the victim residence under siege in what those “mobbing” me have bragged is “property war,” by criminalizing the tenancy of the victim resident, and by laying waste to her life.
In my own case, the connection between the monitoring, stalking, and criminal harassment into my home and the drive to gentrify the neighborhood, is revealed by a years-long neighborhood bullying situation whose documented players include real estate developers, their real estate agents, and a malignant neighborhood watch in concert with some criminal real estate speculators apparently skilled in the methods of “tenant relocation.” The criminal harassment is an escalation of what the mobbers once quipped was “clearing by smearing.” This criminal method was taken up when I was not expelled by methods more firmly planted in the “civil” arena, and when neither the Seattle Police Department (SPD) nor the City of Seattle reined in a neighborhood watch that went so far as to copy SPD on their plan to use civil code enforcement to turn over some single-family homes that were leased to renters. In this way, mobbing in my neighborhood has occurred as a continuum from the civil to the criminal, and ultimately with both prongs continuing side by side.
Criminalization of tenancy by civil protective order
In some cases, the tactics of the mobbers begin in the civil realm but when the civil component fails to convince the victim to leave his home, the mobbers “enhance” a tactic already in play to increase the stakes for the victim who resists. This might include “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as humiliation or an intensification of noise or sleep deprivation (“Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_interrogation_techniques). In other cases, vulgar defamations made within a civil context may take root and have an impact in a criminal proceeding, with grave consequences for the mobbing victim. Perhaps the quintessential example of this crossover from the civil realm to the criminal is found in the anti-harassment order or civil protection order (CPO).
The King County District Court (Washington State) website provides a description for the lay person:
An antiharassment order is a special type of restraining order which is available only to victims of harassment. It is a civil order of the court telling the person who harassed you not to bother you again.
The police are notified of your antiharassment order. The order is fully enforceable in any county in the State.
Reflecting its origins in civil law, the “petitioner” of the anti-harassment order is the individual who seeks the order from the court; the “respondent” is the individual against whom the order is sought. But once an order is issued, a “petitioner” who requests police “enforcement” of the order is recast as the victim, the respondent is transmogrified into “defendant,” and the criminal charges against him are tried in criminal court.
Wielded by an unscrupulous neighborhood watch and their band of criminal real estate speculators, an anti-harassment order is not a protective shield; rather, it becomes a potent weapon in an arsenal of tricks to constructively evict. Civil orders can transform what police ignore as a petty civil squabble into the criminal prosecution of the mobbing victim. According to Attorney Matthew R. Hoff of Vancouver, Washington, “…even an inadvertent violation of a no-contact order can have criminal consequences. A civil protection order alone does not result in jail time, and will not result in a criminal record—but violating such an order is a criminal offense.” (Website of Matthew R. Hoff, Attorney at Law, “Anti-Harassment and Orders of Protection,” http://www.matthewhoff.com/criminal-defense/domestic-violence-defense/anti-harassment-and-orders-of-protection/)
Real estate mobbers, criminal real estate speculators or tenant relocators who work for them, devise their two-prong strategy based on the assumption that their victims will be unable to prove their criminal activities and, therefore, can fight them only in the civil arena. Based on this assumption of immunity by lack of proof, and potentially with an unethical attorney in tow, the mobbers are prepared for any civil response.
The ease with which an anti-harassment order is obtained, is influenced by the appearance of an attorney for the petitioner as well as the druthers of the presiding judge. If a mobbing victim tries to get an order restraining the mobbers who are criminally bullying him within an inch of his life, he’ll have to go through their attorney first, perhaps even the same attorney who advised the mobbers about how they could constructively evict neighboring renters and force their rental homes to market. After the tables were turned on a local renter who, without an attorney, unsuccessfully sought protection from mobbing harassment by her neighbors and wound up instead with one lodged against her, a Seattle attorney observed “they must be giving [anti-harassment orders] out like candy.” Hoff notes:
Orders of protection and Anti-harassment orders are intended to protect victims of abuse and torment. The restrictions imposed by said orders can interfere with daily activities. Unfortunately, many times requests for protection by the petitioner are made on the thinnest of evidence, if not the legal definition of insufficient evidence. Some requests for protection include inconsistent and contradictory language. In my opinion, the system is being abused by individuals who have no good faith basis in seeking orders of protection but are merely being sought to ruin the reputation of the person they are seeking “protection” from.
The acquisition of an anti-harassment order by one or more of the mobbers, is the big brass ring of immunity for bad deeds done. Having an anti-harassment order brought against you will almost certainly rubber-stamp the defamations of an unscrupulous neighborhood watch and its cronies in real estate speculation. Worse yet, once your mobbers get a civil order against you, it may become impossible to accurately reframe the situation for police and the court. If the cultivation and enlistment of police bias on the part of the neighborhood watch hasn’t already prevented them from taking your complaints, the police will turn a deaf ear to your reports of harassment once an anti-harassment order stands against you, they will zealously police your home, and they will forward the petty complaints of the mobbers to the prosecutor. Police may even forward charges to the prosecutor for violations of the anti-harassment order if you listen to music at a legal volume during non-quiet hours, even as the mobbers turn up the volume on permanently installed outdoor speakers whenever you go outside and host parties with live bands ten feet from your windows.
Even a wrongfully obtained civil order is suppressive of civil rights and liberties; suppression is a key feature of mobbing and a component of the mobbers’ provocation strategy. At least the real estate mobbers of northeast Seattle have probably adapted what is commonly called a “police provocation strategy,” and are making it work for a speculative real estate market in which tenants have no seat at the table. Moreover, the mobbers may have a couple of years after the expiration of the order to report alleged violations, and you may not know about their allegations until you receive a summons to appear in court on criminal charges that may not only end your tenancy but altogether ruin your life. All this because you failed to concede your rights and legal contracts and get out of the way when criminal speculators decided to push renters out of the neighborhood and force the turnover of rental properties to speculation.
Despite language in the King County description of an anti-harassment order that characterizes it as a means to avoid further “bother,” the impact of an anti-harassment order, especially when it is obtained as part of a strategy to constructively evict a neighbor, is not at all trivial.
Civil orders of protection should be taken seriously and given immediate attention. Violating an Anti-Harassment Order or Order of Protection even in the civil context can result in criminal charges being filed.
Perhaps most importantly, even an inadvertent violation of a no-contact order can have criminal consequences. A civil protection order alone does not result in jail time, and will not result in a criminal record – but violating such an order is a criminal offense.
Additionally, even if there is no criminal case against you, a civil protection or restraining order is still likely to appear on a background check. This may affect your employment opportunities and housing options, among other things (emphasis mine). The full ramifications of the CPO may be a direct affront to your reputation and standing in the community.
Website of Matthew R. Hoff, Attorney at Law, Anti-Harassment and Orders of Protection, http://www.matthewhoff.com/criminal-defense/domestic-violence-defense/anti-harassment-and-orders-of-protection/
Having a civil order against you can affect your housing options. This is something the mobbers bank on. Perhaps this is the reason why the nasty neighborhood watch lady wasted no time attempting to get an anti-harassment order against a pair of renters residing in a single-family dwelling nearby, even being witnessed baiting one of the tenants she had just put under a temporary restraining order (TRO) by following him down the street on foot with her smart phone raised as though she were filming him. The mobbers have no lack of mobile devices.
According to the Washington State lawfirm Rhodes Legal Group, Pllc, “[P]rotection orders… were created to serve legitimate purposes; however, they are not always filed for legitimate reasons.”
Protection Orders can be filed out of anger, revenge, malice, mental health issues, drug problems, control, or harassment. Parties, with the help of attorneys | lawyers, file protection orders bases on misstatements, exaggerations and false accusations to establish control in and out of the courtroom.
Website of Rhodes Legal Group, Pllc, “Fighting False Accusations in Protection Orders,” https://rhodeslegalgroup.com/seattle-law/fighting-false-accusations-protection-orders/
A civil order of protection is a quintessential means of “clearing by smearing” that may have damaging effects across the board in the life of a mobbing victim who holds out against a criminal, constructive eviction. The abuse of civil orders is so casual that these orders that are extended by law to protect are commonly used as a legal strategy to discredit or destroy a reputation.
On being mobbed documents the continuous crime of real estate mobbing as it is occurring in Seattle, Washington. The information I provide here relates to what I’ve learned as the victim of real estate mobbing in Washington State and is subject to the codes of the City of Seattle and the State of Washington. I’m no attorney; these writings relate to my own thoughts and experiences as I try to survive being harassed out of my home while the mobbers make sure that I pay a high price for staying in my home by trampling my reputation and my life.
That said, there is a high degree of variance in the provisions and laws across the states of this country. This became clear to me when I used Google to find out about abuse of the laws on protective orders. This is one of the reasons why it is important to talk to an attorney about the implications of an anti-harassment or civil protection order in your own state. In some states, even before you consider extensions of time that may be granted to lengthen such civil orders, their duration varies significantly. Not to mention the fact that there are differences in the requirements to obtain one and the type of order for which the law provides. The penalties that accrue when you are accused of violating such orders also differ from state to state, from fines, to contempt, to criminal charges. And violations of such orders are treated differently depending on whether the case is considered a matter of domestic violence. In at least the State of Washington, domestic violence applies when the petitioner seeks protection from a “family or household member.” (Instructions on How to Fill Out The Forms For Antiharassment, http://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/courts/districtcourt/pdfs/ah_instructions.ashx)
Whatever you do, if you are being mobbed and intend to resist expulsion from your home, find out how much it costs to hire a decent attorney to defend you against a petition for a civil protection/anti-harassment order and bank it in case you need it later on. If I’m correct and such an order is a weapon in the arsenal of the kind of scumbucket speculators who mob, you need to protect yourself against an escalation in which they try to scare you off by getting such an order. Once an order is obtained, an appeal is likely to be expensive, if it is even feasible. And if getting such an order is strategy and you remain in your home after it is obtained, the mobbers will likely attempt to have you cited for its violation in hopes that the prospect of criminal charges compels you to capitulate.
It is probable that a move by the mobbers to get a restraining order of some kind is part of mobbing strategy. After all, in my own mobbing and as part of the mobbing harassment, the mobbers let me know that if I said I was being harassed, they would say I was harassing them. And it’s clearly within keeping for real estate agents; I have a letter written by an agent from a large Washington real estate company on behalf of a developer threatening lawsuits for “valuation” as well as a “gag” order that would supposedly have prohibited me from talking to potential home buyers. This after a couple who, soon after a property inspection truck was seen at the house the developer built, reneged on an offer to purchase it. Incidentally, that couple approached me after they saw Seattle Police Parking Enforcement arrive one day to chalk my car tires.
Interestingly, many states do not provide a specific anti-harassment order. Of greater significance, perhaps, is the fact that most states do not specifically call out the petitioners’ fears for their “children” as grounds to obtain such an order. Most states speak generally about members of the household. In contrast, Washington State specifically provides protections for the children of petitioners, at least as described in the table of comparative law, Stalking/Harassment Civil Protection Orders (CPOs) By State (https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/domviol/docs/StalkingHarassmentCPOChartJune07.authcheckdam.pdf). In Washington State, an anti-harassment order protects the children of the petitioner in cases “when the course of conduct would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the well-being of their child.” Stalking/Harassment Civil Protection Orders (CPOs) By State (https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/domviol/docs/StalkingHarassmentCPOChartJune07.authcheckdam.pdf). This may open the door for vulgar innuendo about the dangers respondent poses to children.
Perhaps it was with this knowledge that the snarky attorney friend of the south mobbing house owner elicited testimony in court from the franchise family girlfriend that they would not be able to have children if I, a middle-aged woman who had no criminal history, continued to live next door. This despite the fact that, so far as I can see, there are no provisions in the law relevant to the fears of as-of-yet unmarried would-be parents for children left unborn. I suppose it’s also possible that the south mobbing house owner, informed by his snarky attorney friend, might have had those laws in mind when he said he was afraid for his dog.
I admit, between cats and dogs, I’ll take the felines every time.
Eviction by Chronic Nuisance Ordinance
Obtaining a civil order of protection or antiharassment provides real estate mobbers with a sneaky method of criminalizing a tenancy. In another episode of This Old House (Is A Nuisance House), it also opens a back door to having a property turned over.
On November 30, 2009, the City of Seattle City Council repealed Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Chapter 10.09 “Public Nuisances” and replaced it with Chapter 10.09 “Chronic Nuisance Properties.” The sponsor of the ordinance was Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, current chair of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods & Finance Committee.
The old SMC section 10.09.030 defined the condition of “public nuisance” as follows:
For purposes of this chapter a “public nuisance” is a condition which
wrongfully annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health
or safety of others, or unlawfully interferes with, obstructs or tends
to obstruct, or render dangerous for passage, any public park, square,
street or highway, or any other public place; or in any way renders
other persons insecure in life, or in the use of property, and which
affects equally the rights of an entire community or neighborhood,
although the extent of damage may be unequal.
Deeming a property a “chronic nuisance” is significantly different from deeming a “condition” a “public nuisance.” The new ordinance empowers the Chief of Police to declare a property to be a “chronic nuisance property” when there are “specific facts and circumstances documenting (1) the occurrence of three or more nuisance activities on a property within sixty days or seven or more nuisance activities within a twelve month period.” (SMC 10.09.030 Declaration of Chronic Nuisance Property and Procedure)
You mitigate or eliminate a “condition.” You turn over, rehabilitate or raze a property. The Chronic Nuisance Properties ordinance defines “nuisance activity” to include:
a. a “most serious offense” as defined in ch. RCW 9.94A;
b. a “drug related activity” as defined in RCW 59.18.130;
c. any of the following activities, behaviors or criminal conduct:
Assault, Fighting Menacing, Stalking, Harassment or Reckless Endangerment, as defined in SMC Chapter 12A.06;
Promoting, advancing or profiting from prostitution as defined in Chapter 9A.88 RCW;
Prostitution, as defined in SMC 12A.10.020;
Permitting Prostitution, as defined in SMC 12A.10.060;
Obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic, as defined in SMC 12A.12.015(4);
Failure to Disperse, as defined in SMC 12A.12.020;
Weapons violations, as defined in SMC Chapter 12A.14;
Drug Traffic Loitering, as defined in SMC 12A.20.050(B); or
Gang related activity, as defined in RCW 59.18.030(16).
A chronic nuisance property, according to the ordinance, is subject to “abatement”:
Such reasonable steps may include the owner taking all acts and pursuing all remedies, including pursuing eviction of the person in charge, that are (1) available to the owner pursuant to any lease or other agreement, and (2) consistent with state and local laws, including but not limited to RCW 59.18.580, the Victim Protection Limitation on Landlord’s Rental Decisions, and SMC 22.206.160C, the Seattle Just Cause Eviction Ordinance.
A landlord may evict a tenant for criminal activity he or his “subtenants, sublessees, residents or guests engage in on the premises, or on the property or public right-of-way abutting the premises.” (SMC 22.206.160 – Duties of Owners, C. Just Cause Eviction)
When you are being real estate mobbed by an unscrupulous neighborhood watch and tenant relocators who have an attorney at their disposal, you can count on their awareness of Seattle’s Chronic Nuisance Ordinance. Real estate mobbers use of civil code violations on trash disposal and removal of vegetation and debris, for example, are taken up by the section of landlord’s obligations in the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. Renters down the street from me received civil code violations for trash disposal. The nasty neighborhood watch lady across the street involved the police in accusations that the renters were dealing cocaine out of their home, “drug activity” that directly contributes to a property being deemed a “chronic nuisance property.” In fact, the renters down the street worked outside of their home in accord with the then emerging legal marijuana business model. The use of a false accusation of cocaine dealing against them was probably intended to capitalize on the nature of their business, as well as on provisions in the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance and the “Chronic Nuisance Property” ordinance. Since living in this neighborhood, I’ve been accused by developers, neighborhood watch co-captains, and the owners of the mobbing houses from which I continue to be harassed continuously and criminally, of numerous “nuisance activities, for example, the developer of a house across the way and the nasty neighborhood watch lady claimed I was “obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic” when I parked in the right-of-way at the base of my driveway in a manner that was common in the neighborhood.
When the flurry of accusations, complete with harassing calls and email to the landlord did not compel the eviction of the tenants down the street, the nasty neighborhood watch lady herself filed a petition for an anti-harassment order against them, dragging some co-captain friends and her daughter into court as witnesses,. This was probably the same daughter who braced herself against the dashboard of her mother’s van the day the nasty neighborhood watch lady accelerated toward me, breaking hard to to stop some six feet from where I stood holding a water hose at the bottom of my driveway.
In cases where a party to a malevolent neighborhood watch obtains a civil order, neighborhood gossip is likely to ensure news of it is heard far and wide. The existence of the order will likely be used outside the courtroom as de juro “proof” that the dreaded renters are engaging in criminal activities. Finally, the holding of the order becomes a pretext to falsely accuse the tenant of violations which are crimes, not just criminalizing a tenancy by innuendo, but creating a criminal record that probably would not exist had the tenant escaped being targeted by an unethical neighborhood watch.
Once there are charges against the tenant for violating an ill-gotten civil order, there is a clear path for a neighborhood watch to call for police to deem his rental home a chronic nuisance property. This circumvents the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance or perhaps satisfies the exceptions it allows to evict a tenant.
In this way, the Chronic Nuisance Ordinance (CNO) opens the door to a dirty strategy for the constructive eviction of legal tenants. The statements of the nasty neighborhood watch lady during her proceeding against the tenants down the street from her were provocative. Littering her testimony with the language of the Washington statute (cries of her “fears,” her “distress,” and the tenants “hostility”), the nasty neighborhood watch lady said: “…everyone keeps saying, until you have a restraining order —and here are the violations since the restraining order.” One would think the rationale for the order is to collect violations of the order rather than to enjoy the order’s protection.
The 2009 “chronic nuisance ordinance” was passed after what Forbes magazine would call “the perfect foreclosure storm” had already set in, a time when declining housing prices were the crowning blow for overextended home owners receiving their walking papers at work. According to Forbes, “In the perfect storm scenario what happens is that falling house prices (leading to a negative equity position in a house) combined with a job loss can lead to default and a foreclosure. So here it is because of both negative equity and unemployment that foreclosures rise.” (“The Great Housing Recession Continues,” Forbes Magazine, April 21, 2010, http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/20/housing-foreclosure-unemployment-opinions-columnists-thomas-cooley-peter-rupert.html) Between short-sales and bank foreclosures, the Great Recession was the time for the developer who could afford to bide his time, to buy up.
In 2009, the houses on my street overlooking Lake Washington could not be sold. In early 2010, I moved into the neighborhood and rented the home in which I continue to reside, despite all I have endured at the hands of developers, speculators, and an inbred and unscrupulous neighborhood watch. Mine is a small older home, unfortunately sited across the street from perhaps the most malicious of the neighborhood watch co-captains. The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance prohibits the removal of a tenant “except pursuant to legal process” (22.206.180 – Prohibited acts by owners, D.) In the Seattle “Chronic Nuisance Property” ordinance, we find just such a process.
An old web page of the Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance on “chronic nuisance properties” encourages “neighbors” to “join forces” with other neighbors to rid the neighborhood of them: “The greatest advantage of pursuing the nuisance process is the position of strength and leverage it provides neighbors.” The page offers “the guidelines for working with landlords, tenants, and the community police officer.” It also provides form letters that home owners can send to a property owner and to his tenants, complete with a copy to North Precinct CPT Officer Randy Maxwell, who apparently serves or once served the Roosevelt District. I have italicized and added color to a few of the statements for emphasis:
Sample Letter 1 to Property Owner
Seattle, WA 98115
Dear Mr./Ms. Nuisance;
We are writing you regarding the property you own at _____________.
As I am sure you are aware, the tenants of your property cause the neighbors distress and we consider it to be a nuisance.
List the problems with dates if possible.
We would like to invite you to discuss the situation with us and help us all come to some resolution about future of the tenants of your property.
We would like the tenants gone as soon as it is legally possible. We are prepared to take further steps up to and including legal action, although we are confident we can resolve this matter amicably for everyone.
Please call or email me so we can set up a time to talk. We appreciate your cooperation and attention to this matter.
Have all the neighbors sign this letter, keep a copy
The promulgation of such letters and tactics is disturbing for reasons that should be obvious. There is an uncomfortable focus on the activities of renters as opposed to all residents in a community. Moreover, the unrestrained willingness of those who advocate immediate complaints to home owners about rented properties, accompanied with broad hints and even demands that the only solution is an eviction of tenants that would likely be considered illegal under the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, shows an ignorance about the rights of tenants to be free of tortious interference into their contracts. This is likely because renters are regarded as uninformed and without the resources required to respond to the trampling of their rights.
A second sample letter includes the placeholder “Complainants’ names and addresses” as though in anticipation of the court action the site advocates, if necessary, to expel renters. This letter is addressed to “Mr and Mrs. Pinchpenney” (sic) of “666 Heck Street” in Bellevue, Washington.
I recall the statement of the nasty neighborhood watch lady when I moved into this neighborhood in early 2010, that my landlords were “cheap.” A new homeowner who recently moved to the area told me, without my asking, that the interior of her home is “a dump.” He wasn’t the first to say that. We must take care not to let disparaging comments about a landlord being “cheap” make us believe he is a “slumlord.” Unethical neighborhood watches and real estate speculators may deliberately make such comments to interfere in the relationship between landlord and tenant because they want to turn the house over for speculation. In a climate of speculation, renting is not regarded as a proper investment; speculators do not want to see single-family homes made available to the renting class. The quickest way to escalate property values is not to rent homes but to flip them. Unethical house flippers have no patience with landlords, and view them as nothing more than “reluctant sellers.” And when a developer who has no doubt been instrumental in what has happened to me these last years went to my landlords’ home and his offer on this property was turned down, I was told that he said I was “just a renter” and that there were “ways to get me out.”
Until now, I assumed the drive to expel renters from single-family homes was limited to neighborhoods like my own. In light of the past efforts of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Alliance, however, combined with the replacement of the “Public Nuisance” code with the “Chronic Nuisance Ordinance,” and in light of the intensification of development in the years since the Great Recession, I am given to believe that the drive to expel renters from single-family dwellings and to contain them in apartments of ever-increasing cost is more widespread. This post-recessional drive to push renters out of single-family homes reminds me of the years after World War II when trade union discrimination assisted in forcing “Rosie the Riveter” back to her newly modernized kitchen so that returning soldiers could reclaim her wartime job. I am puzzled about the deep anti-renter sentiment that seems to exist in at least some Seattle neighborhoods. Most of us rent our homes at some time in our lives. Why would former renters not only malign those who continue to rent but actively seek to diminish their opportunities for decent housing.
Perhaps some of the discrimination against renters can be explained by the courting of home owners by speculators who seek to profit from their investments.
The dangers of the Chronic Noise Ordinance (CNO) and the potentials for its abuse are a topic of civil rights law. Salim Katach examines the effects of such ordinances on tenants’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to liberty in his note, “A Tenant’s Procedural Due Process Right in Chronic Nuisance Ordinance Jurisdictions” ( Hofstra Law Review, Vol. 43:875).
The Fourteenth Amendment is the basis for numerous landmark civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Roe v. Wade (1973), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). Our rights to due process and equal protection are laid out in the amendment’s first section (“Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution).
Katach argues that the Fourteenth Amendment “liberty interest” of tenants is undermined by CNO provisions that may evict victims of domestic violence as disorderly without providing any resource and despite indiscriminate use of citations by police. The tolling of citations as “strikes,” with three mandating a challenge to the status of a property as a rental, for example, deprives tenants of their due process. According to Katach, “only a landlord can contest the nuisance status of her property” (p. 878). From the perspective of an unscrupulous real estate speculator, a CNO puts the filing of citations against tenants on the same trivial level as filing complaints against property owners for a garden poorly kept, something that I once heard the owner of the mobbing house to the north tell his guests they wouldn’t be able to “get [me] out” for. Some CNOs may offer monetary incentives to landlords who agree to start an eviction proceeding against their own tenants; others prohibit the landlord of a “nuisance property” from renting it to “an alternative tenant” (p. 884), may revoke a landlord’s rental license, or even threaten a landlord with imprisonment. With threats like that in play, CNOs offers criminal speculators and tenant relocators a solution to the problem of “reluctant sellers.” Mobbers can direct their efforts toward the criminalization of a tenancy, and thereby force the turnover and sale of the rental property.
The ease with which spurious complaints can be placed against tenant and tenancy cannot be balanced against the lack of recourse permitted the tenant: “A tenant cannot contest the property’s nuisance status, contest any officers’ citations, or retain tenancy until she is convicted of the criminal offense. Therefore, it is possible for the tenant to be found not guilty in the criminal case against her, and still lose her tenancy” (p. 878). This undermines due process and the “liberty interest” of the tenant:
[I]t is not difficult to see how tenants have a liberty interest in completing their contractual duties with their landlords. A right to liberty is not only the right to be free from ‘bodily restraint,’ but also includes ‘the right of the citizen… to use [his faculties] in all lawful ways, to live and work where she will; to earn her livelihood by any lawful calling; [and] to pursue any lawful trade or vocation. (Ibid, p. 892)
The concept of “nuisance,” Katach informs the reader, is derived from common law doctrine which is “entirely undefined and complex” (p. 6).
[Nuisance law] has been described as ‘the great grab bag, the dust bin, of the law,’ because nearly any interference can be described as a nuisance. Currently it is used by the courts as a catch-all term to describe a defendant’s interference with a plaintiff’s interest. (p. 6)
Nuisance laws, says Katach, are used today to “inhibit the use of property for a variety of illegal purposes.” (p. 7) One such inhibition to the rights of owners and tenants alike, appears to be put against the rental of a property.
Citing Seattle’s own CNO, Katach observes that “the majority of CNO jurisdictions provide the chief of police with the sole right to determine what conduct is considered “disruptive” and when a property should be considered a chronic nuisance.” (Ibid, p. 904) Leaving this determination to a single individual means that “Therefore, any conduct can be considered disruptive, in hindsight, and this can lead to the use of the CNO as a weapon. For example, it is plausible that the chief of police will declare any conduct of a persistently cited tenant to be disruptive if she ‘has it in’ for her.” I have observed that calls to the police, in and of themselves, can make an individual appear to be a problem, and that the mere repetition of a baseless nuisance complaint by a neighborhood watch co-captain inevitably attracts negative attention to the tenant. According to Katach, “[S]ome CNOs exempt such violations [that arise out of domestic violence disputes, while others tally every instance of police contact.” (p. 9) Satach’s conclusions about the use of CNOs support my belief that civil process, from code violations to anti-harassment orders and the CNO, is deliberately abused as strategy to expel renters.
As to criminal charges resulting from the alleged violation of an anti-harassment order that is the outcome of bullying driven by an anti-renter neighborhood watch organization, it is possible that some CNO jurisdictions would not wait for trial before moving for the tenants’ eviction. Communities that see the institution of CNOs as a reprieve from city coffers drained by endless police visits to “nuisance properties” (p. 897) may ignore or overlook the abuse of civil codes by nuisance complainers as well as the potential for CNOs to be leveraged in speculator bids to turn over properties. I was fortunate when, after the first 50 or 75 complaints made by the nasty neighborhood watch lady to Seattle Police Department Parking Enforcement about my legally parked vehicles, city workers began to note the complaints in the city database with “Chronic complainer.” Unfortunately, the officers of Seattle’s North Precinct have shown more bias and less insight.
Real estate mobbing, recognized by the United Nations as a form of forced eviction, and by Amnesty International as a human rights violation, abuses legal process to criminalize a tenancy and constructively evict. Like Chronic Nuisance Ordinance laws, real estate mobbing—whether it is effected through the application of civil or criminal statute—deprives tenants of the continued occupancy of their homes. Katach comments: “Many courts have recognized that a person’s tenancy in land is a protected property interest. The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that ‘[t]he right of a tenant to continued occupancy of his home is a traditionally recognized property right.'” The signing of a lease agreement entitles the tenant to a right of possession.
Chronic Nuisance Ordinance laws, tailor-made for unethical speculators, infringe upon the rights of those who rent, denying them due process and creating a means to expel them from community. Katach warns that the “great interest” of the tenant is “at risk when a municipality attempts to take the tenancy away without the necessary procedural safeguards. For some, this deprivation could lead to homelessness, emotional turmoil, and a broken family. Therefore, regardless of whether it is a property interest or a liberty interest, one thing is clear: tenancy is a right that cannot be usurped without some form of procedural protection.” (p. 894)
CNOs are Jim Crow for the renting class; they should be banned. Although Katach points out that CNO statutes can be constitutionally upheld if written to provide only a “few procedural safeguards” (p. 898), CNOs treat tenants as a disorderly underclass whose homes are chronic nuisances. Moreover, the potential for abuse of CNOs by powerful speculative interests working in concert with neighborhood councils and watches is too great.
Chances are that the mobbers don’t really want to go to court and perjure themselves anymore than they have to. After all, the nasty neighborhood watch co-captains and real estate speculators they are associated with are likely to be dragged in after them. For these reasons the most likely scenario is that when a neighborhood watch or a “neighbor” of the mobbing victim goes for an anti-harassment order, the goal is to finally scare the victim into moving. The mobbers can then pressure the home owner to sell. If the mobbing victim refuses to leave, however, the mobbers can start to call police and complain of violations to the civil order. This means that the mobbers can continue to bitterly harass the victim tenant, and regardless of whether the victim responds to the provocation strategy, the mobbers can claim violations.
Such tactics show exactly how unscrupulous these real estate speculators or, euphemistically, the “tenant relocators” who work for them are. Their tactics range from the more professional tendering of a deal to pay a tenant in a rent-controlled apartment to move, to putting security cameras up to watch tenants or outright threatening them. I’ve have read about detectives being hired to do a “job” on a tenant, the kind of thing that those mobbing me seem to have done. I would not be surprised if there are unlicensed detectives involved in my own situation; after all, just before I became aware of the mobbing when the first private investigator I hired to help me with the public disclosure process was scared off by an unnamed “attorney” who threatened us both, one of the mobbers ensured I heard the statement, “We’ve seen your detective; now you can see how you like ours.” It is comments like these that have made the presence of a licensed or unlicensed detective seem likely, especially in light of the use of methods of surveillance in the mobbing, including the use of beam-focused sound (the parabolic speaker) as well as the rest of the toolkit of the dirty P.I. These near-three years of mobbing have included threats of ruination and, indeed, ruination. This is something that nasty people hire dirty detectives to do to their enemies. Ultimately, however, the motive must be profit. Even if the nasty neighborhood watch lady of the northeast thrills at the thought of mobbing her neighbors, chances are that she had to find some real estate speculators willing to do her dirty work for her.
Real estate mobbers and tenant relocators employ civil orders because, unfortunately, they get away with it. This is a tactic that they will continue to use, at the cost of their victims lives, until the strategy and the factors that enable its success are exposed. The use of such tactics must be closely examined for violations of laws against obstruction of justice, vexatious prosecution, and abuse of civil process. Moreover, civil orders should not be doled out “like candy,” nor should they be routinely enforced, in cases where the “petitioner” is party to a documented adult bullying situation of the “respondent,” especially not when the parties involved include real estate developers and speculators as well as the neighborhood watch. Lastly, attempts by neighborhood representatives of a watch group or their documented allies to get civil orders against a resident of their neighborhood should be carefully examined for motive. Claims by neighborhood watch organizations that they are being harassed by constituent residents should be suspicious by their nature. No neighborhood organization should war against the residents it claims to represent. ▪