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?
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.