Apartment Guru: Building Manager Lets Himself In, Watches TV

trespassing in my apartmentDear Apartment Guru,

I think my building manager comes into my apartment when I'm not at home. He doesn't do much, but my theory is that he watches my TV and eats my cereal and other food that he thinks I won't notice.

I started suspecting when my downstairs neighbor was home sick one day and heard someone in my apartment. She called upstairs to ask if I wanted to hang out since we were "both" at home. She asked me later why I hadn't answered my phone. Then I started noticing little things, like the TV remote being moved and the level of milk in the container getting lower.

Mind you, I have no proof. There is another neighbor who swears she found the building manager at her door one day with his key in the lock. He told her that he was "chasing a rat" in the building. I don't want to falsely accuse him. How can I find out if he's letting himself in, and what can I do about it?

--A Girl Who Lives Alone

Dear Girl,

Wow, what you have described here sounds a little creepy. And I think you are going to need to do a little more investigating in order to do anything about it.

You might want to begin by setting "traps" for the potential intruder. For example, leave your remote control on a book in a very deliberate position and snap a picture. At the end of the day, check to see if it's still where you left it. Similarly, you might try marking the level of milk in the carton to see if it changes while you are out.

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More drastic measures include leaving a tray of red washable paint, like a booby trap, at your door so that the intruder will step in it and leave a footprint -- of course, then you have red paint tracked across your carpet. You can always invest in a nanny cam to monitor your digs while you're out. It will cost you around $200, but it might be worth it for the peace of mind.

Once you have proof that someone is entering your apartment without your permission, you have every right to call the police and have the unauthorized visitor charged with breaking and entering. In fact, a landlord or building manager may never enter your apartment without your consent.

The only exception is if there's an emergency, "such as a fire or burst pipe," says Suzanne Randall, a building manager in Chicago. "And even in the event of an emergency, you must be left with a written statement as to why they entered and what they did when they were there."

If you feel you are in any danger, call the management company and see about having your locks changed. In order to avoid getting an innocent rat-chaser fired for no reason, make sure you inform management that you don't know who the intruder is, just that you believe you may have one. Feel free to discuss with them who has a copy of your door key and why.

As long as you clearly state that you have no proof that the building manager is invading your privacy, you can also ask if there have been complaints about him in the past. However, since even a simple question like that might raise uncalled-for suspicion, you might consider flagging yourself by saying you have some paranoia issues and wonder if it's possible to keep your new extra key locked up instead of on someone's key ring.

And be grateful, Girl Living Alone, that your downstairs neighbor has your back.

Now go buy her some flowers!

Have a question for the Apartment Guru? Email her at: apartmentguruquestions@gmail.com

The Aparment Guru is Joselin Linder, co-writer of "The Good Girl's Guide to Living in Sin" and "Have Sex Like You Just Met." Having rented apartments and houses in Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Columbus, Ohio and abroad in Prague, she knows what it means to live in a home you don't own and still make it homey. Anything she doesn't know, she isn't afraid to ask.

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