More on Mobbing: Dirty Secrets of Real Estate and Development
What is “real estate mobbing”?
Real estate mobbing is a method of harassing or “clearing” residents out of housing. This type of “mobbing” is most commonly used to force residents to vacate a property for the sake of real estate speculation, often in an area that is being gentrified. Those affected by real estate mobbing may be the legal tenants of a dwelling on the property or the property owners themselves.
“Mobbing” tenants out of their homes is illegal and may also constitute a form of tortious interference in a contractual agreement between tenant and landlord. Tortious interference is wrongful interference in a contract by a third party that is not a party to the contract between landlord and tenant.
Real estate mobbing may be considered misdemeanor or felony harassment, depending on how the practice is carried out. There are cases that include eavesdropping, blackmail and defamation, audio and electronic harassment, constant monitoring or other surveillance, and stalking that is continuous or confined to the neighborhood. Real estate mobbing can be seen as one of numerous styles of harassment that a paid harasser might use to “clear” a property.
What does “real estate mobbing” look like?
Real estate mobbing is an international phenomenon that appears differently in different countries and cultures. Its goal is the forced eviction of legal residents and intense harassment and fear may be required to make people leave homes that they legally lease or own. Real estate mobbing may utilize various techniques, including those historically used in construction and development, to make residents uncomfortable and even frightened to remain in their homes. In the United States, “condo mobbing” may utilize the organizational structure of the home owners’ association as well as the access that neighboring units and “common areas” provide to harass the owner of one condominium unit. In an apartment building, a mobbing effort may seek to “turn over” units for renting at higher costs. In a neighborhood that is the focus of a real estate development and speculation, the resident tenant or owner of a single home may be “mobbed” using continuous harassment and “mobbers,” harassers or “clearers” who use a mobbing style of harassment might be paid to live nearby or even next door until the desired property is “cleared” and available for acquisition and development.
“Workplace mobbing” is different from real estate mobbing and typically does not include stalking or harassing behavior outside the workplace. Workplace mobbing is a form of gang bullying that begins with malicious gossip but ultimately involves and may be intensified by the creation of a hostile environment, often contributed to by a troubled organization and its management. The end of a mobbing effort in the workplace may be to humiliate and expel through bullying. The cost to the bullied individual can be great; “mobbed” workers have reported they were ultimately terminated or forced to resign, often because of the health concerns related to severe stress.
A real estate mobbing that seeks to forcibly evict a resident may be even more intense than a workplace mobbing because of the importance of having a home. Real estate mobbing can also be highly disruptive because of easy access to the resident. “Monitoring,” a form of stalking with prominent features of watching and tracking, is easy in neighborhoods where the houses are close together and Internet and cable lines are shared. Residents may also be available to harassers around the clock. In a residential mobbing, the organization that is involved is not the workplace; rather, it may be the local neighborhood or condominium association. And while, unlike workplace mobbing, there may be no inciting event besides desire to develop the land malicious gossip may play a strong role with “witch hunt” like accusations of crimes used to intimidate and frighten.
Where does it happen?
Real estate mobbing can happen in any community but is most likely to happen in cities or neighborhoods that are being heavily worked by real estate speculators and investors. A key technique of “blockbusting” is to harass tenants or owners out of houses from adjacent properties. Neighborhoods where houses are close, where yards have been plowed under and one lot split to build several houses, for example, “mobbers” can be moved into houses on both sides of a lot that the owners of neighboring lots wish to acquire or where developers want to build a newer, more expensive house. Drones, also used to survey lots, can do double-duty as “stalker drones” equipped with infrared cameras and speakers used to “monitor” and harass residents until the property is “cleared.” Property owners who cannot keep tenants may be forced to sell at a low price to the development interests who harassed their tenants.
Harassers may deliberately create discord between tenants and landlords with verbal harassment in which they tell tenants that they are working for the landlord. Tactics like this can lead to a rupture in the best of landlord-tenant relationships and may even result in lawsuits that hide the true nature of the harassment as a predatory land-grab. In some cases, rental houses may be seen as “up-for-grabs,” properties whose owners are assumed to be disinterested and whose tenants are assumed to be incapable and unwilling to defend their homestead. Neighborhoods with community associations favoring development as a source of profit to individual home owners whose property values increase as the area is gentrified may even work with developers to encourage them to “clear” houses of tenants and force owners to sell.