Please give this document time to load. It is a large file.
PART 3 OF 3, PAGES 61 - 89
WARNING SIGNS OF DRUG ACTIVITY
The sooner it is recognized, the faster it can be stopped.
COMPLAINTS WE HAVE HEARD:
“The neighbors tell me my tenants are dealing drugs. But I drove by three different times and didn't see a thing.”
ADVICE WE WERE GIVEN:
“You've got to give up being naive. We could stop a lot more of it if more people knew what to look for.” —Narcotics detective
While many illegal drugs are sold on the street today, the following are most common:
“Crack,” a derivative of cocaine, produces a more intense but shorter high. Among other nicknames, it is also known as “rock.” Crack is manufactured from cocaine and baking soda. The process required does not produce any of the toxic waste problems associated with methamphetamine production. Because crack delivers a “high” using less cocaine, it costs less per dose, making it particularly attractive to drug users with low incomes. Crack is typically smoked in small glass pipes.
Powdered cocaine has the look and consistency of baking soda and is often sold in small, folded paper packets. Crack has the look of a small piece of old, dried soap. Crack is often sold in tiny “Ziploc” bags, little glass vials, balloons, or even, as is - with no container at all.
In general, signs of cocaine usage are not necessarily apparent to observers. A combination of the following are possible: regular late-night activity (e.g., after midnight on weeknights), highly talkative behavior, paranoid behavior, constant sniffing or bloody noses (for intense users of powdered cocaine).
Powdered cocaine usage crosses all social and economic levels. Crack usage is so far associated with lower income levels. While Los Angeles style gangs (Bloods and Crips) have made crack popular, other groups and individuals have begun manufacturing and selling the drug as well.
“Pharmaceutical” grade meth is a dry, white crystalline powder. While some methamphetamine sold on the street is white, much of it is yellowish, or even brown, and is sometimes of the consistency of damp powdered sugar. The drug has a strong medicinal smell. It is often sold in tiny, sealable plastic bags.
Hard-core meth addicts get very little sleep and they look it. Chronic users and “cooks” - those who manufacture the drug - may have open sores on their skin, bad teeth, and generally appear unclean. Paranoid behavior combined with regular late-night activity are potential indicators. Occasional users may not show obvious signs.
Tar heroin has the look of creosote off a telephone pole, or instant coffee melted with only a few drops of water. The drug has a strong vinegar smell. It is typically sold in small amounts, wrapped in tinfoil or plastic. Paraphernalia that might be observed include hypodermic needles with a brown liquid residue, spoons that are blackened on the bottom, and blackened cotton balls.
When heroin addicts are on the drug, they appear disconnected and sleepy. They can fade out, or even fall asleep, while having a conversation. While heroin began as a drug of the wealthy, it has become a drug for those who have little income or are unemployed. Heroin addicts don't care about very much but their next “fix” - and their clothes and demeanor reflect it. When they are not high, addicts can become quite aggressive. As with most needle users, you will rarely see a heroin user wearing a short - sleeved shirt.
The marijuana grown today is far more powerful than the drug that became popular in the late `60s and early `70s. Growers have developed more sophisticated ways to control growth of the plants and cause high output of the resin that contains THC - the ingredient that gives marijuana its potency. Today's marijuana is often grown indoors to gain greater control over the crop and to prevent detection - by competitors, animals, or law enforcement. It takes 90 to 180 days to bring the crops from seed to harvest.
Users generally appear disconnected and non-aggressive. The user's eyes may also appear bloodshot or dilated. Usage of marijuana crosses all social and economic levels.
Marijuana is generally sold in plastic bags, or rolled in cigarette paper. The smell of the smoke has been described as a “musky” cigarette smoke.
Warning Signs In Residential Property
The following list describes signs of drug activity that either you or neighbors may observe. As the list will show, many indicators are visible at times when the landlord is not present. This is one reason why a solid partnership with trusted neighbors is important.
Note also, while some of the indicators are reasonably conclusive in and of themselves, others should be considered significant only if multiple factors are present.
This list is primarily targeted to tenant activity. For information on signs of dishonest applicants, see the chapter on Applicant Screening.
Dealing. Dealers sell to the end user - so they typically sell small quantities to many purchasers. Dealing locations are like convenience stores - there is a high customer traffic with each customer buying a small amount.
Neighbors may observe:
Landlords may observe:
Distribution. Distributors are those who sell larger quantities of drugs to individual dealers or other, smaller distributors. They are the “wholesale” component, while dealers are the “retail” component. If the distributors are not taking the drugs themselves, they can be difficult to identify. A combination of the following indicators may be significant:
Marijuana Grow Operations. Grow operations are hard to identify from the street. They are more likely to be found in single-family residential units than in apartments. In addition to the general signs of excessive fortifications or overly paranoid behavior, other signs are listed below.
Neighbors may observe:
Landlords may observe:
Meth Labs. Meth labs, though prevalent in some other parts of the nation, are not common in the state of New York. However, given that the possibility exists, we have included the following brief information here for general knowledge, reprinted from the National Landlord Training Program manual.
In states where clandestine labs are prevalent they have been set up in all manner of living quarters, from hotel rooms and RVs, to single-family rentals or apartment units. Lab operators favor units that offer extra privacy. In rural settings it's barns or houses well away from other residences. In urban settings it might be houses with plenty of trees and shrubs blocking the views, or apartment or hotel units that are well away from the easy view of management. However, while seclusion is preferred, clandestine labs have been found in virtually all types of rental units. Once a meth “cook” has collected the chemicals and set up the equipment, it doesn't take long to make the drugs - about 12 hours for one batch.
Neighbors may observe:
Landlords may observe:
If you have reason to believe there is a meth lab on your property, leave immediately, wash your face and hands, and call the narcotics division of your local law enforcement agency to report what you know. If you are feeling any adverse symptoms (for example headaches, nausea, skin irritation, or other symptoms) or otherwise have reason to believe your exposure has been extensive, contact your doctor - some of the chemicals involved are highly toxic.
General. The following may apply to dealing, distribution, or manufacturing.
Neighbors may observe:
Landlords may observe:
Stop the problem before it gets worse.
COMPLAINTS WE HAVE HEARD: ⑬
“The problem is these landlord -tenant laws don't give us any room. The tenants have all the rights and we have hardly any. Our hands are tied.”
“The system works primarily for the tenant - for -cause evictions are very difficult to do. The judges bend over backward to help the tenant.”
ADVICE WE WERE GIVEN:
“Serving eviction papers on drug house tenants is not the time to cut costs. Unless you already know the process, you are better off paying for a little legal advice before you serve the papers than for a lot of it afterwards.”
“Tell them to read a current copy of the landlord -tenant law. Too many landlords haven't looked at it in years.”
Address problems - quickly and fairly - as soon as they come up. Know how to respond if a neighbor calls with a complaint. If eviction is required, do it efficiently. If you don't know, ask a skilled attorney.
Don't Wait - Act Immediately
Effective property management includes early recognition of noncompliance and immediate response. Don't wait for rumors of drug activity and don't wait for official action against you or the property (e.g., warning letters, fines, closure, or forfeiture). Prevention is the most effective way to deal with rental -based drug activity. Many drug operators have histories of noncompliant behavior that the landlord ignored. If you give the consistent message that you are committed to keeping the property up to code and appropriately used, dishonest tenants will learn that they can't take advantage of you or your property.
The following are three of the more common reasons why landlords put off taking action, as well as some reasons why you may want to act anyway:
⑬ Note that some “complaints” contain inaccurate or incomplete assumptions about legal rights or procedure.
To be sure, tenants can be victimized by friends or relations - for those tenants who seek you out and ask for assistance, help as best you can. But be careful of stories you hear from tenants who don't admit to problems until after you have received complaints from neighbors or police. The sooner tenants who “front” for others realize they will be held responsible, the sooner they may choose to stop assisting in the crime.
The Secret to Good, Low -Cost Legal Help
If you are not familiar with the process for eviction, contact a skilled landlord -tenant attorney before you begin. By paying for a small amount of legal advice up front, many landlords have saved themselves from having to pay for a lot of legal help further down the road. The law may look simple to apply, but as any landlord - or tenant - who has lost in eviction court can attest, it is more complicated than it seems. While researching this manual, we repeatedly heard from both landlords and legal experts that the vast majority of successful eviction defenses are won because of incorrect procedures by the landlord and not because the landlord's case is shown to be without merit.
If you don't know a good landlord -tenant attorney, find one. If you think you “can't afford” an attorney, think again. Too often, out of fear of paying an attorney fee, landlords make mistakes in the eviction process that can cost them the equivalent of many months' rent. Yet many evictions, when done correctly, are simple procedures that cost a fraction of a month's rent in attorney's fees.
Finding a good landlord -tenant attorney is relatively easy. Check your yellow pages phone directory for those attorneys who list themselves as specialists under the subcategory of “Real Property Law” or “Landlord and Tenant.” Generally, you will find a very short list, ⑭ because few attorneys make landlord - tenant law a specialty. Call at least three and interview them. Ask about how many evictions they do per month and how often they are in court on eviction matters. In our experience, the safest bets are those attorneys who do many evictions - they see it as a major part of their practice, not a sideline that they ' advise on infrequently. Once you find attorneys who have the necessary experience, pick the one you feel most comfortable working with and ask that person to help.
⑭ In some smaller jurisdictions you may not find any attorneys listed as specialists in this type of law. In such a case, try contacting a local property management association for referrals or call a few local property management companies and find out who they use, then interview the attorneys to find the one you feel comfortable with.
If a Neighbor Calls With a Complaint
If a neighbor calls to report drug activity - or any other type of dangerous or illegal activity - at your rental, take these steps:
Also, make a commitment that you will not reveal the caller's name to the tenant without permission (unless subpoenaed to do so). In the past, some landlords - perhaps believing that neighbor reports were exaggerated - have treated dangerous situations too casually and told criminals the names of neighbors who called to complain. If the neighbors have exaggerated, you do no harm by protecting their names. If they haven't, you could put them in real danger by revealing too much.
Ask the caller for:
• A detailed description of what has been observed.
• A letter documenting what has been observed, sent to you and to your local law enforcement agency's narcotics division. If you have Section 8 tenants, have a copy sent to the local Public Housing Agency also.
• Name, address, and phone number, if willing to give it. If neighbors don't know you, they may be unwilling to give you their names on the first call. This is one reason why we recommend you meet neighbors and trade phone numbers before a crisis occurs. Consider: If the only thing neighbors know about you is that you have rented to a drug dealer, they will have reason to be cautious when they call.
• Names of other citizens you can call who could verify the complaint, or ask that they encourage other neighbors to contact you. You will need more evidence than the phone call of a single neighbor to take meaningful action. Explaining this need may help further encourage the neighbor to ask others to call. Also, having multiple complaints can help protect the caller by taking the focus off of a single complainant as the “cause” of the drug dealer being discovered.
A single call from one neighbor doesn't necessarily mean your tenants are doing anything illegal. However, a single call is justification to pursue the matter further.
Eviction of Tenants Involved In Illegal Activity
Once a landlord has determined that tenants are involved in the type of activity that harms the community, the next step - after reporting any criminal activity to the police - is determining the most appropriate method for ending the tenancy and regaining possession of the property. The following options are the most likely ones that a landlord would use in such a situation. While additional causes for terminating a lease in the state of New York exist (associated with issues such as foreclosures, “squatters,” or when a lease permits termination in event of tenant bankruptcy), these are the most likely approaches in the situations associated with illegal activity:
If your tenant wishes to fight in court, you will need to establish a civil - not criminal - level of proof that drug trade has occurred. This is a lower level of proof than local law enforcement would need to get a conviction. Nevertheless, allegations of drug activity or other dangerous activity should be made with care. Again, given the seriousness of the charge, always contact an attorney before proceeding with this option.
Note that frequently, if the tenants are involved in illegal activity, they move out quickly rather than fight the eviction - it won't help their drug operation to appear in court. One exception is Section 8 tenants who, for reasons unrelated to the drug activity, may be more inclined to resist eviction (as described in the chapter on Applicant Screening).
⑮ See Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law §711.5
⑯ New York State law requires that a landlord either “make a demand for the rent” or that a landlord use a written, three-day notice - requiring payment or move out - served in a prescribed manner. See RPA&P §711.2
⑰ See Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law §711.1
Example: one instance of a tenant engaging in a late night shouting match in a courtyard may be a lease violation, but would likely not qualify as cause for eviction. On the other hand, if similar behavior has occurred a number of times over a number of months, and the landlord can show multiple warning notices for it, the pattern of evidence would likely support the idea that the tenant is “objectionable.” This is also where the strength of a New York lease is tested most - the degree to which the lease plainly and appropriately describes violations that would render the tenancy objectionable and cause lease termination, is the degree to which the lease is useful in supporting eviction of a problem tenant.
Make sure the letter is evenhanded - present evidence, not accusations. Make no claims that you cannot support. Have the letter reviewed by an attorney familiar with landlord -tenant law. Done properly, this can be a useful way to dissolve a problem to both your tenant's and your own satisfaction without dealing with the court process. Done improperly this will cause more problems than it will solve. Don't try this option without doing your homework first.
Again, if illegal activity is occurring, most tenants will take the opportunity to move on. Finally, if you evict someone for drug activity, share the information. Landlords who are screening tenants down the road may not find out about it unless the information is documented. If it is a Section 8 renter, make sure the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority has a letter from you on file. Also, contact the screening company or credit reporting service you use and advise them of the circumstances - they may also be able to keep track of the information.
The Court Process
The popular belief is that a lease termination notice is sufficient to force a tenant to move out by the date specified for cancellation or nonrenewal. In fact, the notice is just the first step. Technically, the landlord's notice to vacate means that, should the tenant not move out by the date specified for lease termination, then the landlord may file suit to regain possession of the property (usually suing because a tenant is “holding over” - that is, remaining on the property past the end of the lease term). While many tenants will move out when the term expires, if a tenant does not, the landlord will need to start a legal action with the local courts to regain possession of the property.
In cases where a tenant wishes to resist eviction, the tenant will be allowed to remain on the premises, until a landlord has received a court judgment against the tenant.
Landlords may not take the law into their own hands by using force or unlawful means to evict tenants. For example, a landlord may not use threats of violence, remove a tenant's possessions, lock the tenant out of the apartment, or willfully discontinue essential services such as water or heat. ⑱ Penalties for taking such action can be substantial - for instance, a tenant who is locked out of his/her apartment in this manner may recover triple damages in a legal action against the landlord.
To use the force of law to remove a tenant, a landlord must sue in court and win the case. An eviction proceeding may be brought in Buffalo City Court. In order to commence an eviction proceeding, the tenant must be served with a petition (a formal written request) giving notice of the reasons for the eviction. Once the action is commenced, a court date will be set where the tenant will be given an opportunity to assert a defense.
Ultimately, only a sheriff or marshal can carry out a court eviction of a tenant - that is, only a sheriff or marshal has the legal right to remove a tenant - by force if necessary - for failing to comply with a court order to move out. ⑲ In the City of Buffalo, the City Marshal is located at 50 Delaware. The Marshal's number is (716) 847-8430. Legal forms for evictions may be purchased at most stationery stores.
Perhaps the most compelling point we can make about the entire eviction process - from service of notice to arguing in court - is this: Eviction is an expensive, time-consuming way to “screen “tenants. You will save much heartache and considerable expense if you screen your tenants carefully before you rent to them, instead of discovering their drawbacks after you are already committed.
Levels of Evidence
An eviction trial is a civil proceeding. This means that civil levels of proof are typically all that are required to succeed. For example, in eviction court landlords have established a strong proof of drug activity in a rental by providing the following:
From a criminal standpoint, this level of proof would generally not be enough for the police to get a search warrant. But it can well be enough to prove suspicion of chronic drug activity for a civil court. Of course, the actual level of proof required will be determined by a combination of local law, court precedents, the presiding judge, and the “trier of fact” - either a judge or jury - who hears the case. (For more on the issues of criminal versus civil law, see the following chapter on Law Enforcement.)
⑱ Real Property Law §235
⑲ Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law §749.
If You Have a Problem with Neighboring Property
When chronic problem activity is present in a neighborhood, every affected citizen makes a conscious or unconscious choice about what kind of action to take. The choices are to move away, to do nothing and hope the problem will go away, or to take action to stop the problem. Doing nothing or moving away usually means the problem will remain and grow larger - somebody, someday will have to cope with it. Taking action, especially when it involves many neighbors working together, can both solve the problem and create a needed sense of community.
Many neighbors are under the impression that solutions to crime are the exclusive responsibility of the police and the justice system - that there isn't much an individual citizen can do. Actually, there is a lot that citizens can do, even must do, in order to ensure they live in a safe and healthy neighborhood. Getting more involved in your neighborhood isn't just a good idea - it is how our system of law and civic life was designed, and the only way it can really work. With that in mind, the following is a list of proven community organizing techniques to help you begin.
Of course, establishing a connection with a particular officer who works the area regularly is often a key to success. Other strategies include:
While there are various approaches to taking legal action against a property owner, one that seems worthwhile to explore for some types of extreme situations is this: New York State's Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law §715 grants a unique power to, among others, both law enforcement agencies and to any person who lives, or owns property, within 200 feet of a specific type of problem property. In effect, law enforcement agencies and neighbors each have the right to require the landlord to evict a tenant when the property is used in whole or in part as a “bawdy house, or house or place of assignation for lewd persons, or for purposes of prostitution, or for any illegal trade, business or manufacture.” The law specifies that, should the landlord fail to take that action, the neighbors, or the law enforcement agency, may evict the tenants just as if they, themselves, were the landlord of the property. Further, in such a situation the court could cause the owner of the property to pay civil penalties. Again, this type of approach shouldn't be undertaken without a careful study of the legal implications in doing so. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the option so that it can be considered.
Building an effective partnership.
COMPLAINTS WE HAVE HEARD:
“The problem is the police won't get rid of these people when we call. We've had dealers operating in one unit for four months. The other tenants are constantly kept up by the activity - even as late as 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning on weeknights.”
“I called police about one of my properties. They wouldn't even confirm that anyone suspected activity at the place. A month later they raided the house. Now I'm stuck with repair bills from the raid. If they had just told me what they knew, I could have done something.”
ADVICE WE WERE GIVEN:
“In almost every case, when the police raid a drug house, there is a history of compliance violations unrelated to the drug activity for which an active landlord would have evicted the tenant.”
Know how to work with the system to ensure rapid problem resolution. Have a working knowledge of how your local law enforcement agency deals with drug problems in residential neighborhoods.
Defining the Roles: Landlords and Police
It is a common misconception that law enforcement agencies can evict tenants involved in illegal activity. In fact, only the landlord has the authority to evict; the police don't. The police may arrest people for criminal activity. But arrest, by itself, has no bearing on a tenant's right to possess your property.
Eviction, on the other hand, is a civil process. The landlord sues the tenant for possession of the property. Note the differences in level of proof required: Victory in civil court requires “a preponderance of evidence” - the scales must tip, even slightly, in your favor. Criminal conviction requires proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” - a much tougher standard. Therefore, you may find yourself in a position where you have enough evidence to evict your tenants, but the police do not have enough evidence to arrest them. Further, even if the police arrest your tenants, and a court convicts them, you still must evict them through a separate process - or, upon release, they have the right to return to and occupy your property.
Many landlords are surprised to discover the degree of power they have to close drug rentals and eliminate their threat to the neighborhood. As one police captain put it, “Even our ultimate action against a drug operation in a rental - the raid and arrest of the people inside - will not solve a landlord's problem, because the tenants retain a legal right to occupy the property. It's still the tenants' home until they move out or the landlord evicts them. And, as is often the case, those people do not go to jail, or do not stay in jail long.” It's surprising, but the person with the most power to stop the impact of an individual “drug house” operation in a neighborhood is the property owner - the landlord. Ultimately, the landlord can remove all tenants in a unit. The police can't.
The only time law enforcement may get involved in eviction is to enforce the outcome of your civil proceeding. For example, when a court issues a judgment requiring a tenant to move out and the tenant refuses, the landlord can go to the sheriff or marshal and request that the tenant be physically removed. But until that point, law enforcement cannot get directly involved in the eviction process. However, the police may be able to provide information or other support appropriate to the situation - such as testifying at the trial and providing records of search warrant results.
Again, criminal arrest and civil eviction are unrelated - the only connection being the possibility of subpoenaing an arresting officer or using conviction records as evidence in an eviction trial. No matter how serious a crime your tenants have committed, eviction remains your responsibility.
What to Expect
Police officers are paid, and trained, to deal with dangerous criminal situations. They are experts in enforcing criminal law. They are not authorities in civil law. As such, if you have tenants involved in illegal activity, while you should inform the police, do not make the common but inaccurate assumption that you can “turn the matter over to the authorities” and they will “take it from there.” Because landlord -tenant laws are enforced only by the parties in the relationship, when it comes to removal of a tenant, landlords are the “authorities.” With that in mind, you will get best results from the police by providing any information you can for their criminal investigation, while requesting any supporting evidence you can use for your civil proceeding.
In order to get the best cooperation, remember the rule of working with any bureaucracy: The best results can be achieved by working one-on-one with the same contact. Further, while this rule applies to working with any bureaucracy, it is especially important for working with a law enforcement agency where, if police personnel share information with the wrong people, they could ruin an investigation or even endanger the life of an officer. If an officer doesn't know you, the officer may be hesitant to give you information about suspected activity at your rental.
Your best approach, therefore, is to work with the community policing officers assigned to the area in which your property is located. An established relationship with officers who know the area and its residents can make a tremendous difference in your ability to obtain information and cooperation.
The type of assistance possible will vary with the situation - from advice about what to look for on your property, to documentation and testimony in your eviction proceeding. But remember that it is not the obligation of the police to collect information necessary for you to evict problem tenants. While you can get valuable assistance from the police, don't wait for the police to develop an entire criminal case before taking action. If neighbors are complaining that you have drug activity or other dangerous situations in your rental, investigate the problem and resolve it as quickly as possible (see the previous chapter on Crisis Resolution). Do not assume that the situation at your unit must be under control simply because the police have yet to serve a search warrant at the property.
Bawdy House Law
Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law Section 715, “The Bawdy House Law” permits a municipality or a property owner within 200 feet of a problem property, to bring an eviction proceeding in Buffalo City Court against tenants involved in an illegal business. An illegal business is defined as drug dealing, prostitution or gambling at the subject premises.
RPAPL §715 requires that the initiating party provide written notice to the owner of the subject premises regarding the problems at the property, and that he must make an application to remove the involved persons within five (5) days. If the owner fails to make an application the municipality or owner may commence an eviction proceeding to have the occupants removed. The landlord will become a party to that eviction proceeding and the Judge is authorized to impose a civil penalty up to $5,000.00 for the failure of the landlord to address the problem. Currently, Buffalo City Court Housing Judge Diane Y. Devlin hears all Bawdy House cases. SEE HANDOUT FOR FULL TEXT OF RPAPL §715.
Chapter 294 of the City of Buffalo Ordinances is the Nuisance Abatement law. This action is filed by the City of Buffalo in New York State Supreme Court. Pursuant to Chapter 294, two or more convictions for the following offenses is necessary to commence an action: drug possession/activity, prostitution, obscene performances, promotion of obscene material, operation of a business not licensed as required by law, a building used for unlawful activities as described in § 123 of the Alcohol Beverage Control Law, a violation under Chapter 511 of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Buffalo, a criminal nuisance as defined in §240.45 of the Penal Law, or certain Vehicle and Traffic Law violations.
The remedy pursued by the City is to first seek a preliminary injunction, allowing the immediate closure of the building pending further proceedings and eventually closure of the building ordered by the Judge for up to one year. In addition, the Court can impose a $1,500.00 fine for each day the nuisance remains unabated and a $1,500.00 fine and/or 15 days in jail for violation of the Court Order. SEE HANDOUT FOR FULL TEXT OF CHAPTER 294.
Federal Asset Forfeiture
Traditional common law enforcement targeted the perpetrator of the crime and concentrated on conviction and punishment. It did look to the property that the criminal either used or generated from his crimes. The federal forfeiture law combines traditional law enforcement with the removal of property from the criminal enterprise to achieve a more long-lasting deterrent effect on the illegal activity.
Crimes are committed for 2 reasons:
The federal asset forfeiture program targets the money/profit motive.
3 Main objectives for forfeiture:
1. Punish and deter criminal activity by depriving criminals and those that help them of their property either used or acquired through illegal conduct.
2. Enhance cooperation among federal, state, local and foreign governments through equitable sharing.
3. Provide revenue to enhance law enforcement to catch more criminals.
3 Types of Property that can be forfeited:
3. Corpus Delicti
Federal forfeiture is used to combat many different criminal activities such as:
• Innocent owner had no knowledge of the illegal activity and if aware of the illegal activity did everything that one could do within reason to prevent it.
Civil Forfeiture of Drug houses. Title 21, United States Code, Section 881(a)(7) provides for the forfeiture of real property that was used to facilitate felony distribution, possession or manufacture of controlled substances.
Guidelines used by the United States Attorney:
• More than one search warrant and arrest at a location.
• Provide notice to owner to allow him to correct the problem.
• Allows our office to monitor the situation, is it better, or does it remain a problem property?
• Are they the same tenants involved (not just arrested) or different people altogether?
• What are the owner and mortgagee doing in response to the problem? Are they taking all reasonable steps to prevent future illegal activity?
• Forfeiture is initiated by government filing a complaint in federal court against the property
• No physical seizure unless exigent circumstances
• Owners and those with legal interests have 30 days to file claims and 20 days thereafter to file their answers to the complaint
• Assigned counsel only if it is principal residence
• Full discovery available, i.e. depositions, interrogatories, production
• Summary judgment
• Obligation for mortgage and taxes continue until final order from the court
Burden of Proof is on the government to show by preponderance of the evidence that the real property facilitated the drug dealing.
However, burden is on owner to prove yourself an innocent owner by preponderance of evidence.
Some examples of reasonable actions:
• Calling the police
• Working with the police
• Having month to month leases with specific provisions if reasonable belief of illegal activity
• When you learn of problems, send certified letter warnings to all tenants
• Evicting not only those arrested, but those that let their apartments or living units to be frequented by those arrested
• Putting up gates
• Installing cameras
• Hiring security guards
• Giving keys to the police
• Participating with block clubs and neighborhood watches
• Encouraging neighbors to call landlord if problems
• Screening new tenants with criminal record checks
• Mortgage holders to ensure that property is not being subject to illegal activity... can enforce by calling in the note immediately
• Working with the SOS Task Force
Some federal cases hold that an owner must do all of the above to be considered an 'innocent owner'.
If property is forfeited:
• If you lose a forfeiture case, you cannot deduct the loss on your taxes
• The United States Marshals Service dispose of the property in any one of the following methods:
• Sell it on open market
• Transfer the property to a municipality or community organization
• Will insist on strict guidelines in its future use
• Consider if the property needs to be demolished
• If demolished, City assesses costs against previous owner
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
— Edmund Burke
Tenant Screening Service
Your local phone directory lists a variety of Credit Reporting Agencies under that category, some of which regularly work with landlords. In most directories, you will also find listings of companies that can help you with tenant screening under the heading of Property Management
While credit reports are standard, other services vary, and may include: providing records of courthouse eviction proceedings; tracking landlord complaints on problem tenants; search of public records for judgments, tax liens, or lawsuits; criminal background checks; employment verification; verification of address; and reference checking with the present and previous landlords. Your best bet is to contact a few different companies, interview them about their level of service (and fees), and check their references and reputations with other landlords
To report an emergency, call 911.
To request Non-Emergency Police Assistance call 853-2222.
In addition to 911 and non -emergency numbers, other police services in the City of Buffalo that you may want to contact include:
• Police Department Districts. Five Police Districts are established around the city at the following locations:
1847 South Park Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14220
695 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14202
693 East Ferry
Buffalo, New York 14211
669 Hertel Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14207
2767 Bailey Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14215
Mayor Byron W. Brown
Buildings (City owned) - Complaints and Board Up Request
City Ordinance Information
Drug Activity and Nuisance Abatement
Fire Prevention and Inspection Assistance and Information
Housing Code Information and Complaints
Non -Emergency Police Complaints
Sewer Cleaning and Repair
Snow & Ice Ticketing or Elderly Assistance
Traffic sign & signal replacement or repair
Water Division Information
Assessment, Assessment exemptions or Tax Bill/Payments 851-5733
POLICE DEPARTMENT or FIRE EMERGENCY 911
Anonymous Narcotic and Criminal Tip Line 847-2255
Parking Violations Bureau and Parking Tickets 851-5183
Permits and Building Permits 851-4949
Erie County Health Department's
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
• What is lead?
• Why is lead a problem?
• Where can lead be found?
• Lead-based paint hazards
• Property owner responsibilities
• Lead Paint
• Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
• Sources of additional information
2. WHY IS LEAD A PROBLEM?
• Health problems in children under 6 years old
• Health problems in an unborn child
• Health problems in adults
3. WHERE CAN LEAD BE FOUND?
4. LEAD PAINT HAZARDS
• Where lead-based paint is found
• Recognizing lead-based paint hazards
• Controlling lead-based paint hazards
• Managing lead-based paint hazards
5. PROPERTY OWNER RESPONSIBILITIES
• Disclosure Law
• Routine monitoring and regular maintenance
• Protect occupants from potential lead paint and lead in soil hazards
• Work with lead programs inspectors
6. CHILDHOOD LEAD POISONING PREVENTION PROGRAM
• Blood lead level tests reporting
• Response to elevated blood lead levels
• Case management
• Environmental Investigations
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program 961-6800
Erie County Health Department
-Questions on health effects, safe lead hazard control work, informational pamphlets, reducing lead hazards
National Lead Information Center 1 -800424 -LEAD
-Answer questions on lead
-List of laboratories that analyze paint and dust samples for lead
-Real Property Disclosure Rule
Lead Poisoning and Your Children
Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home
Office of Lead Hazard Control 1-800-LEADUST
-List of trained inspectors
City of Buffalo - LeadSafe Rehabilitation for Housing from Owner Occupants 851-5317
Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo 852-2857
712 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
Laws and Ordinances
These are generally available through your local public library. State laws are also available through your state legislature's information service. Contact your local county and city governments for applicable ordinances.