talking about Operation Apartment Snoops – a rather unimaginative euphemism I
have invented for what one well-placed source on the east coast tells me is "a
voluntary program" wherein the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are enlisting
landlords and apartment managers across the country to take a gander inside the
four walls of your rental dwelling.
simply a variation of the Operations TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention
System) program," my source says.
introduction to Operation Apartment Snoops began two months ago when all of the
tenants in the 200-plus-units building I live in received a two-week notice stating
that "annual routine inspections" were to commence shortly. The notice asserted
that the inspections concerned "maintenance issues."
I've lived in the same apartment for three years and there have never
been routine or annual inspections. In fact, the mere concept in the state of
California is a violation of state civil code. The law clearly states that "There
is no general right in California to carry out routine inspections of the rental
unit except that a waterbed or smoke detector installation may be inspected."
with several other tenants I voiced an objection to this intrusion on my privacy.
I even phoned the local Housing Authority Office and spoke to an inspector who
assured me that it was a violation of state law but there was little, if anything,
her office could do about it.
have nothing to hide, of course. I just resent a landlord telling me that they're
entering my premises whether I like it or not.
I felt it was easier to swim with the current than against it, and told my apartment
manager that I actually welcomed the inspection because I have several maintenance
issues that need to be addressed.
not what this is for. This is strictly routine," she said. "Any maintenance issues
you have need to be put in writing and brought to the office so a work order can
Whatever. So inspection day comes and a rep from the management office arrives
with some little clipboard-toting dweeb I've never seen before. They take a quick
look around at all of the rooms, ignore my comments about things that need to
be fixed (reminding me that I have to itemize those matters and present them in
writing to the manager), and they leave.
of matter. Then several weeks later (July 15) I receive the following notice:
found in our annual inspections some work orders that need to be looked over or
fixed in your apartment. Contact the office to set up an appointment or come by
and sign an agreement allowing us to enter your apartment when you are not at
home. Please contact us within a week's time or we will be serving you a 24 hour
notice to come and fix the problem."
what? What "work orders"? I was told twice that was not the intent or purpose
of the inspection.
same evening that I received the above-mentioned notice, I sat down for an e-mail
correspondence with a friend in Indiana. I expressed my annoyance at the landlord's
intrusion and my friend wrote back the following:
certainly noticed a recent increase in the amount of government and landlord incursions
into homes and apartments around here. As it stands, I've been living in the same
apartment for the past four years, and since I keep the rent paid a bit ahead
and don't cause problems, usually I don't have much contact with the owners. However,
this summer - for the first time - they made four separate, sudden entries into
everyone's apartments, ostensibly to check for code and insurance requirements.
troubling, given Bush's recruitment of government TIPsters, city housing officials
began touring the apartments on very short notice, ostensibly to check for code
violations. Interestingly enough, however, they certainly wanted to look in EVERYTHING.
Closets were opened, and they evidently expected me to drain and move my waterbed,
the better to "check an outlet." When I mentioned that I was a law student,
that the outlet was accessible by kneeling down, and that while I had nothing
to hide, I was a bit bothered by the whole conflict with the Constitution's "unreasonable
searches and seizures" prohibition and would prefer they get a warrant if
they wanted to open my closets or drawers, they backed off. A week later, I moved
my CD storage unit out onto the balcony to vacuum and reorganize the discs. Within
hours, it had been duly noted, and I got a call from the landlord asking to take
it in because storing anything - especially an odd black plastic monolith - on
the balcony was a code violation. So people are being watched and minor things
are getting noticed, quickly.
it is my own paranoia. Perhaps it is the fact that the apartment complex houses
a lot of graduate students, many of whom are international students and not a
few of whom are environmental activists (or else Arabs or Asian and thus nominally
could be agents of Bush's "evil Axis" courtesy of racial profiling.)
And then several
days after my pal in Indiana sent that missive, another friend in Southern Florida
sent the following comments:
a quick and scary note - I asked around work this morning - apparently "inspections"
are happening here too. One girl said "I know they're looking for anything
suspicious, but I have nothing to hide, so I don't care". Isn't that a great
the inspections are supposed to be random (profiling?) and people are being told
it's to make sure that the tenant is not breaking anything in their lease. yeah,
need some convincing? Consider the following notice from the Neighborhood Services
Department of the City of Glendale, California:
City is undertaking a project to implement a city-wide systematic inspection program.
All residential rental properties with two or more units will be inspected ...
for common violations. All property owners and residents will receive additional
information by mail. Neighborhood Services staff will post your inspection time
at your building approximately two weeks in advance. We appreciate your cooperation,
and look forward to working with you.
Brother is here, folks, all wrapped up in the guise of keeping us renters up to
code. I wonder what nifty excuse city inspectors are going to come up with to
intrude on the privacy of home owners next?
to think that I mistakenly believed all these years that Orwell's "1984"
was a work of fiction, not a how-to manual.
you received a notice in the recent past of apartment inspections that are not
a part of your normal routine where you lease? If so, drop me a line at Brimmer13@excite.com.
Jacobs is a freelance journalist based in Northern California whose work has appeared
in numerous publications, including Eye Magazine, Hustler, Panik, E Commerce
Business News, Adam Film World, and Mind Kites.