Landlords plan meeting to discuss crime, screening tenants

Friday, November 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — It happened seven, maybe eight years ago, but for landlord Amir Ziv it was a lesson he'll never forget.

It was the first house he had put up for rent. Ziv said he rented it to an older man. Two months later, he got a phone call. A SWAT team had surrounded his house.

It turned out the man had been selling drugs, Ziv said. Ziv doesn't remember his name, but he does remember what he learned.

"I thought I was doing an old man a favor," he said. "I thought he was going to be more mellow, and he wasn't. It made me more intuitive and more aware. Just because someone's old and collecting Social Security doesn't mean anything."

Ziv said he's not alone; almost every landlord in Columbia has had a crime occur on his or her property at one point or another, he said.

"I think we all have stories; you just don't know. That's why it's so important to communicate among ourselves," Ziv said.

In early December, a group of landlords will begin that dialogue. The meeting, which is being called the "Columbia Landlords Against Crime Forum," will occur from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the YouZeum.

Mike Martin, another landlord, said this sort of meeting has been in the works for a while.

"I think what this is going to do is spark interest in more landlord involvement in reducing crime," Martin said. "I think if you were to take a survey of all the people getting busted for various crimes, I think about 95 percent are renters; about 95 percent have a prior felony or misdemeanor, some kind of criminal record. If landlords saw this and didn't rent to them, there wouldn't be as many problems. It's taken a long time to put that together."