The Rapist Next Door

Posted by: Chris Palmeri on July 25, 2008

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Last week I posted an item about my decision to withdraw an offer I made on a duplex in Los Angeles. Thanks to everyone who commented. There was another factor in my decision I wanted to discuss. I checked out the address of the duplex on www.meganslaw.ca.gov, a Web site that publishes the addresses of sexual predators.
The site gives you photos of the predators and brief descriptions of their crimes. I wish it had the date of their offenses because if it was a long time ago that might be a mitigating factor.

The Justice Department runs a similar site nationally. You have to search first by zip code rather than the specific address. The California version has an easy-to-use map feature which the federal site doesn’t.

There are several unsavory characters near the duplex I was considering, including three rapists within a five block radius. One of them lives right down the block. Seeing the photos of these people was creepy and scary.

The California Association of Realtors requires landlords to remind prospective tenants of the Megan’s Law site in their leases. According to The California Landlord’s Law Book (Nolo), landlords can choose not to rent to someone on the sexual predator list. Landlords are not required to disclose to prospective tenants if there is a predator in the neighborhood. But if the landlord knew there was one and a tenant was attacked, the landlord could be liable.

I couldn’t in good conscious rent to a female tenant without telling them there was a rapist down the block. My real estate agent said I shouldn’t let this deter me from buying the property because there are unsavory characters in every neighborhood in Los Angeles. Sure enough, there are a few child molesters near my old apartment (but no rapists). The blocks immediately around our present home are predator-free, but there are a few within walking distance. And there is the argument that you stand to make the most money investing in a neighborhood before it’s completely gentrified.

So are predators in the neighborhood a deal breaker for real estate investors?

Reader Comments

Pam

July 25, 2008 2:40 PM

As a realtor in Madison, Wisconsin I tell my clients that good investments are like kisses... it's Location, Location, Location. I remind my clients of the site on their offer forms and suggests they use it. When predators are in a neighborhood owners will move, prices will go down, and because of this, the area will be hit the hardest during down times. I let the buyers make the decision, however, they need to be informed to make an informed decesions. And, of course, it depends on what kind of landlord you want to be....

Fact Finder

July 26, 2008 2:41 AM

Most of the information on the Megan's law site is out of date, often by a decade, and much of it is quite inaccurate. Statutory rape convictions from 30 years ago get perverted into much more heinous-sounding offenses.

Don't be so quick to judge.

With 70,000+ sex offenders listed, they're going to have to live somewhere. Knowing where they are, is better than not.

JS

July 26, 2008 9:00 PM

I have no sympathy for convicted rapists and child molesters (though I'm not sure that a conviction necessarily means that they deserve to be known as rapists, as if it's a profession or an ethnicity). However, if you don't want to run the risk of crossing paths with unsavory characters -- who do not, mind you, spend every waking moment doing unsavory things -- then you should probably move to the Heartland and get yourself a farmhouse ten miles from anywhere. Then all you have to worry about are drifters and maniacs who want to inspire the next Truman Capote.

On the one hand, it's a dangerous world. On the other hand, it's not as dangerous as our lascivious imaginations would like to believe. Thinking that you can make it safe with a change of address won't make it any safer. (In fact, it will probably make you complacent and therefore less safe.)

John

July 28, 2008 12:42 PM

You don't need ANY reason not to buy in L.A. right now. Prices are going to be coming down for another year or two at least, and the low-end neighborhoods are going to be hit especially hard.

Are predators in the neighborhood a deal breaker for real estate investors?

Living or investing in a neighborhood with AS FEW RAPISTS AS POSSIBLE might seem to be the common sense option, but since this is L.A., you can never tell.

b

July 28, 2008 4:12 PM

what area may be free of this element today may not be tomorrow, your fears are your road block to success. As a landlord I find it absurd that we could be resopnsible for ANY crime as long as the property has been secured with functioning locks,parking & building lights and reasonable preventive measures. Criminals have two legs, the mobility of random crime exists everywhere...lock yourself in a room and it can still find you. Welcome to America..home of the free and paroled !!!

nah415

July 29, 2008 8:37 AM

Some of the most unsavory characters in any neighborhood are real estate agents. You did the right thing for a number of reasons!

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About

BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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