We usually don’t think of academics and university professors as squatters. Think again!
A Kensington homeowner and English professor at UC Berkeley named Elizabeth Abel who was using the academic housing site http://www.sabbaticalhomes.com got a message from Sarah Lawrence professor David Peritz. That sounded good…wouldn’t you be pleased with a professor staying in your home? One is inclined to trust a fellow academic.
Here’s what happened when Abel rented to Peritz:
After looking around the property David announced he was interested to move in and Elizabeth admits she didn’t bother checking his references or doing a background check — mainly because he was a professor. And to her, that equated with respectability.
The first sign of trouble was when his first rental payment didn’t arrive. After a delay and many apologies the money eventually appeared. She put it down to him being a little disorganised. In March, he failed to pay the second payment. He said his wife had needed dental surgery and that they had ended up being a little short, but he would get the money through soon. Elizabeth was slightly worried at this point and gave him the chance to break the lease but he said he wanted to stay and would catch up on payments.
April came and no money arrived and Elizabeth had by now had quite enough. It didn’t help that she was starting to get concerned emails from neighbours — they said they had seen him moving her furniture into the garage late at night and they hadn’t seen any sign of his wife or son. She wrote to David and said she was taking him to the small-claims court.
She also contacted the local police department who sent an officer around to the property. The officer emailed Elizabeth in Paris and said he thought Peritz was trying to establish squatters rights and that a police officer should accompany her when she returned home. They suggested she started the eviction process immediately, as it could take months to actually get David out of her house.
Abel said she was returning early from her trip to re-occupy her home in May. Peritz then stated that this wasn’t convenient for him:
Peritz wrote that he wasn’t “presently in a position to vacate the premises.” He also told her he’d been in touch with an attorney, and said if Abel tried to evict him, they’d end up in court, which “could be expensive, time consuming and draining for both of us.”
So what exactly did Peritz mean….that he thought Elizabeth should never again live in her own house?
When Abel arrived back in town and knocked at her house door, she looked in when Peritz answered, and saw to her horror that he had taken all the furniture out of her house. Even the artwork had been taken off the walls.
Elizabeth Abel hired a private investigator, and discovered that when Peritz applied to stay at her home, he was in the middle of being evicted from another home in nearby Berkeley. He also had been evicted from another place in New York City.
An anonymous blog about Peritz appeared online, detailing his malicious doings:
More information was provided on his finanical “mis-deeds”
At this point, Abel ended up living in a home across the street from her own home, which she could not get into.
She had a colleague, renowned gender theorist Judith Butler, write a message to Peritz:
Butler sent Peritz two epic, eviscerating emails. The first began, “I have recently become aware of your scurrilous behavior—effectively squatting in the home of my colleague, Elizabeth Abel. If you are not out of that apartment within five days time, I will write to every colleague in your field explaining the horrible scam you have committed.” The second, written less than a week later, bore the subject line “your miscalculation” and included this withering coup de grâce:
…please accept the fact that you have painted yourself into a corner, and that you have to leave promptly, and with an apology and a payment plan, in order to avoid any further destruction to your professional and personal world. Your itinerary of self-destruction is a stellar one.
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