Goodspeed: What to do about illegal drug dealing in your condo complex

LINDA GOODSPEED
CORRESPONDENT
The first thing you need to do if you suspect drug dealing in the complex is to get the local police and also the condo association’s board of trustees involved.

QUESTION:What can you do if you suspect someone in your condo development is dealing drugs? I recently bought a condo in a new development and I am sure my upstairs neighbors are dealing drugs from their unit. What can I do?

ANSWER: The first thing you need to do if you suspect drug dealing in the complex is to get the local police and also the condo association’s board of trustees involved.

Under no circumstances should you, as a private citizen, try to undertake your own investigation.

You need to let the law enforcement officials handle any investigation.

Typically, police are quite sensitive to reports of illegal activity in a condominium complex –- to some extent, even more so than in a single-family subdivision -– because of the close quarters involved in a condo complex.

After hearing your suspicions and why you have those suspicions, the police may be able to stake out the complex. Your neighbors may already be known to the police.

The tricky part about drug dealing, or any illegal activity, is that you have to catch the perpetrators with the goods. If you do, the law is very strong, and essentially allows for summary eviction (if the unit is rented), which short circuits the typical eviction process and allows the landlord/owner immediate access to the unit.

If the owner is the one engaging in the illegal activity, the association can go to court in an attempt to keep the owner away from the property. The court can’t take away the person’s ownership of the unit, but it can rule to keep the owner away from the community if he/she is posing a danger to the community, which obviously drug dealing does.

A word of caution - even if the police undertake a drug bust, that in itself is not proof of illegal activity. Any substances found must be tested and the person prosecuted.

Following these cases can be difficult because of state protections around criminal records. You can go to the court house the first day of the hearing and get the criminal docket number and track the case that way.

In addition to getting the police involved, you should also involve the condo association. If the unit is rented, the association may be able to notify the owner of the association’s concerns, police involvement, etc., and get the owner to put pressure on the tenants.

The association would very likely be able to assess against the owner of the unit –- whether the owner or a tenant is doing the illegal activity -– for any legal costs incurred in trying to rid the unit of lawbreakers.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.”