I-Team Exclusive: Rogue Renters, Part 1

Do you know who’s living next door?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A NEWS4 I-Team undercover investigation into a growing problem that might be right in your own neighborhood. The I-Team’s Tisha Thompson investigates illegal boarding homes. This story was published April 27, 2012 - 7:15 a.m. (Published Monday, Apr 30, 2012)

    Do you know who’s living next door?

    Tonight, a NEWS4 I-Team undercover investigation into a growing problem that might be right in your own neighborhood.

    Whether you’re a landlord, renter or just a regular homeowner, it’s an issue affecting us all.

    The I-Team’s Tisha Thompson investigates illegal boarding homes.

    Producer: “Hey.”

    Amy Meinbresse: “How’s it going.”

    Producer: “Amy?”

    This woman is showing us a room for rent inside this Fairfax home.

    Amy Meinbresse: “This is Tom Salvato.”

    Producer: “Derrell. Nice to meet you.”

    Using his middle name and wearing a hidden camera, our I-Team producer answered an ad on Craigslist.

    Producer: “So, it’s just $750?”

    Amy Meinbresse: “Yup. And the $750 for security deposit.”

    “All utilities,” the ad read. “Plenty of secure parking. No drama.”

    But a lot of drama is about to unfold.

    “I’m Tisha Thompson with NEWS4. Can I talk to Tom or Amy?”

    Because Amy Meinbresse and Tom Salvato didn’t tell our producer one critical thing.

    “They’re being evicted.”

    Patrick Cooper owns the house. He rented it to the couple back in October.

    “They appear very trustworthy for the first few months,” Cooper says. “Suddenly it all changed around. They just stopped paying the rent."

    Cooper says he then got a surprise.

    A “Notice of Violation” from Fairfax County for “multiple occupancy” because too many people were living in the house, something Cooper says he didn’t know.

    Producer: “How many people live here?”

    Amy Meinbresse: “Uh, maybe eight.”

    Producer: “Eight? So, there’s eight bedrooms?”

    Amy Meinbresse: “Yeah.”

    Producer: “It’s a big house. Huge.”

    Amy Meinbresse: “Well, we make certain rooms into bedrooms.”

    Meinbresse goes room by room for our producer on the tour.

    “He’s a contractor. He's really neat. His name is Julian.”

    “This guy is Maximilian."

    "This guy is Drew. He's an engineer."

    "This guy Kelly is in the Army."

    “There's two guys downstairs. Russell's here."

    "Michael is down below Kelly's room."

    "There's another girl here, Trish."

    And with Amy and Tom, that makes nine. A full house and against the law in the county.

    “If you have more than four unrelated persons in the house, you're in an illegal situation," says Fairfax County Board Supervisor Pat Herrity.

    He says the county's received about 800 illegal boarding home complaints at last count, leading the government to create a strike team.

    "There are health issues,” Herrity explains. “There's zoning issues, there's building code issues. There are police issues. There are fire issues. The strike team pulls all those disciplines together to go address the problem."

    Tisha Thompson: "We've been getting complaints that you guys are running an illegal boarding house.”

    Tom Salvato: “That's ridiculous. We have two people living here."

    Tisha Thompson: "Here's the thing, you just showed the house to a guy..

    Tom Salvato: “Right.”

    Tisha Thompson: “And Amy just told him that you have eight people living here right now.”

    Tom Salvato: “Well, we don't have eight people living here. So, she's speaking completely out of context. We have two people, one is moving out."

    Tisha Thompson: "You're advertising the property, saying, ‘Hey, come stay at our place on Craigslist. It's cheap. It's easy.’ But we hear you guys are about to be evicted. So, you're showing places to folks?”

    Tom Salvato: “We have been evicted."

    After that interview, Meinbresse emailed us saying the eight people she referred to were her kids and just two renters.

    But the government sent a violation notice that states the county also found at least nine unrelated people living in the house.

    As you heard, Salvato and Meinbresse admit they're being evicted.

    But we'll show you in our next report, eviction doesn't always solve the problem.

    See why the county called the NEWS4 I-Team for help and how one legislator wants to change the law to protect everyone.

    Tisha Thompson NEWS 4 I-Team.