Rental owners learn tenets of keeping tenants safe

Janelle O'Dea
Grand Junction Police Department Officer Cory Tomps talks to a roomful of Craig property owners, property managers and realtors on Tuesday, Jan. 27. Tomps presented the morning part of the Crime Free Multi-Housing program.
Janelle O’Dea

— More than a dozen realtors, landlords and property managers listened to Officer Cory Tomps discuss how to prevent crime in rental communities on Tuesday morning.

Tomps traveled from Grand Junction to present the Crime Free Multi-Housing program. Tomps and current Moffat County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chip McIntyre used to run the program in Grand Junction together.

“It’s a good program that helps the community and law enforcement develop a relationship,” McIntyre said.

“Communication is key,” Tomps often repeated, in so many words, during his presentation. He said encouraging landlords and law enforcement to work together on finding solutions rather than use each other as agents in problematic situations is the goal of the program.

Main subject areas covered include encouraging crime prevention through multiple means, such as proper fencing and lighting, consistent and responsible review of tenant applications, clear communication between residents and landlords and most of all, a positive relationship between law enforcement officials and property owners.

The sheriff’s office and Craig Police Department were looking for a program or activity that could encourage safety at rental properties, McIntyre said. After starting the program and seeing its success for the past seven years in Grand Junction, he recommended it come to Craig.

The program was an eight-hour-long training with several different portions. Tomps led Tuesday morning’s presentation on preventing crime and evaluating tenant applications.

Craig City Attorney Sherman Romney covered part of the afternoon’s session with information about legal options landlords can use to protect themselves. Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume discussed fire safety, and McIntyre said a speaker from the drug task force gave landlords tips about what to look for with drug activity, as well.

Tomps encouraged careful screening and selection of rental applicants. He advocates for landlords and property managers to do national background checks on applicants and use a sort of sliding scale to make judgments on whether or not to rent to a person with a prior conviction.

The best predictor of future criminal behavior is past criminal behavior, but it’s a “balancing act” for landlords when determining whether to give someone a chance to rent, Tomps said.

Those with a violent felony conviction or sex offender status, for example, should be automatically disqualified, according to the program. From there, those with non-violent paper felonies, such as embezzlement or fraud, should have five to 10 years between their conviction and application for housing.

The program gives suggestions for applicants with violent misdemeanors, non-violent misdemeanors, drug violations and drug misdemeanors/petty offenses. It suggests at least five years between any conviction and application for housing, but Tomps said ultimately the decision lies with the landlord.

Tomps also discussed the ways landlords can encourage the creation of apartment communities instead of apartment complexes.

Connie Gomez, property manager at Golden Arms apartments, said several concerns brought her to the seminar.

“We’ve got some younger girls, single moms, who work late at night, and they don’t want to feel unsafe,” she said. “And it’s good to know the ins and outs of your lease to make sure tenants comprehend what they sign. We have a set of rules and regulations, and they just don’t follow them.”

Gomez has been the manager of the apartment community since April 2014 and said there are several families with young children that she also wants to ensure a safe space for.

She’s been in talks with the owner of Golden Arms to get cameras placed on the property to boost security efforts.

“We’ve had a couple of little things happen and would like to know who’s doing it,” Gomez said.

Several Craig realty representatives attended, including Pam Baker from Cornerstone Realty Ltd., Vicki Gutierrez from Country Living Realty and Yvonne McAnally from American Northwest Realty, LLC.

“Our office has more than 70 properties, and we have a responsibility to the owners to prevent these kinds of things,” Gutierrez said.

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

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