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How I Broke the Law to Protect My Real Estate Investment

Matt Faircloth
5 min read
How I Broke the Law to Protect My Real Estate Investment

It’s sad to say, but it’s true. Today I broke the law for my rental property business. I want to tell the story with the hope that you guys can learn something from it.

So, my company currently has a rental property that we’re fixing up. It’s vacant, and it’s under renovation.

We had been broken into so many times in that property. So it’s what you would call a D neighborhood. But that D neighborhood is very quickly transforming; there’s a lot of new construction around it and a lot of people renovating.

You might have seen neighborhoods like this that were really rundown—not much attention and a lot of crime—and are now very quickly transitioning to being better neighborhoods. There are more and more people on the street, more and more construction, and more and more landlords coming in and renovating. We’re one of them.

A Bad Situation at One of My Rental Properties

So, we’re in this property renovating, but there’s also some vacant homes around it. That’s just what happens in these neighborhoods. You have abandoned properties. And there’s an abandoned property right around the corner from the home that we’re renovating.

We kept getting broken into, and it became evident very quickly that the people who were breaking into our property were coming from that vacant home. They were squatters who were squatting in this vacant home. A squatter means someone who’s living illegally in a vacant property and just kind of making it their house even though it’s not really their house. They are just making it home for themselves.

In sum, they’re breaking into our vacant home under construction, and it kept slowing us down. It kept causing a nuisance and aggravated expenses. We even put an alarm system in the home, and they broke it. It was a very, very bad situation.

Related: How to Solve Common Apartment Issues—and Make a Profit

Reporting the Situation to the Authorities

First, we, like good citizens, complained to the local town. Then, we said, “Hey, we’ve got this vacant property. There’s people in this property they’re breaking into my property. It’s not right.”

The town said, “Great. We’ll file a complaint to Public Works, and they will go out and board off the property for you.”

So we waited. We called up again to check and let them know that we keep getting broken into. We asked, “Are you guys going to board up that house?”

They said, “Oh, yeah. We’re getting complaints from the neighborhood, but we’re several months behind and we’re not gonna be able to do it for you for a couple more months.”

I also called the police department. The police department said unless we catch them in the act or unless we find people actually breaking the law (and of course, when they went to the house, there’s nobody in the vacant properties), they weren’t able to do anything. And they’ve got, let’s say, bigger fish to fry than people who are living in a vacant property and breaking into our construction site. So, we didn’t get much out of the police either.

I could have just waited until the town came out to board off the property; that maybe is what some of you guys would have done.

But—we’re on a timeline, and there’s a lot of other people around the property who are complaining. Plus, I’m losing money by continuing to have to go back and redo the work that gets undone every time these folks break in.

Stressed sick mulatto freelancer is having headache and thinking how to finish his work. He is in a casual smart, at his home office

Taking Matters Into My Own Hands

So, what did I do? I decided to take matters into my own hands. I’m not advising you guys to do this necessarily, but it just seemed like the right thing to do for us.

What I decided to do is I went and found a police officer friend of mine, and I went and got one of our contractors, and we went over to the property. The police officer just kind of held security just to make sure that everybody was safe and there’s not anybody in the property. And if there was anybody in the property, they would be removed.

We went into the house. There’s nobody in there. And my contractor boarded up the house!

Here’s what I did that was illegal: That is not my house. I boarded up someone else’s house, and we technically trespassed to board up this house.

Yes. We broke the law. But what I did was a benefit to the neighborhood, to my business, to the police to keep these folks out of this house, and a benefit to the city. I did something the city had planned on doing that was back on their clock to do.

I had to make a calculation on my own and obviously do what would help my company. But also, more importantly, we will help the neighborhood. I felt like in some ways I was being a good citizen by doing it.

So, yes, I broke the law, but I did it for the benefit of the neighborhood and my business.

Related: The Biggest Real Estate Investing Mistake I’ve Ever Made

Learning From This Experience

Now, for you guys, the lesson learned is sometimes you’ve got to take matters into your own hands. We should always weigh these things out. I didn’t approach this from emotion. This is something I calculated and thought about. I’m not saying you guys should take these things lightly. You should make a calculated decision. I weighed it out.

I needed to do this to benefit the neighborhood to benefit my company. and the city is planning on doing this eventually. They just can’t get around to it.

Compare that to, “I’ve got to do something that I’m not supposed to do to get it done.”

You should not come at this thing from emotion. This was a calculated decision that I made to get this done. I calculated, and I made sure there was safety involved and made sure there was an off-duty police officer just in case somebody was in the property. That way, we could be safe.

But breaking the law is not something that you guys should take lightly if you’re considering doing something like something like this yourself.

I’m just giving you guys a glimpse into the landlording business. There will be times—especially if you work in neighborhoods that were D neighborhoods and are on their way to C or B or just rebirthing and becoming a better neighborhood for everybody, including the people that already live there—there may be times when you might have to take matters matters into your own hands. The town might be overwhelmed with dealing with larger issues than people living in a vacant property.

This is a glimpse inside the life of a landlord—sometimes you’ve got to do whatever it takes to advance your business.

In this case, it was technically doing a little bit of trespassing and working on somebody else’s house that isn’t mine. We did what we did. Hope you guys forgive me.

Have a great profitable week.

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Do you have (or have you heard) any similar stories to mine? How do you feel about what I did?

Leave your comments and stories below. 

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.