Beware of the “Pacific Heights” Effect


In our opinion, there are many worst case scenarios when landlords don’t screen or properly screen their rental applicants. One of these possible scenarios of not properly screening a tenant is what we like to call the “Pacific Heights” effect.

Pacific Heights is a 1990 thriller starring Michael Keaton who plays Carter Hayes in which he is a tenant who wants to rent an apartment in the wealthy area of Pacific Heights, San Francisco. Carter drives a nice porche and carries large sums of cash. The owners want to do a credit & background check but Carter convinces the landlords to waive the screening in exchange for a list of references and 6 months payment up front that would be delivered via a wire transfer.

Before any of this money is received, Carter shows up unannounced and locks himself into the apartment. A few days goes by and no money has been wired, there are loud noises coming from the apartment and the locks have been changed by Carter.

In a desperate attempt to get Carter out, the landlord illegally cuts off electricity and heat to the apartment. Carter calls the police and the police side with Carter.

The landlord gets a lawyer to try to evict Carter but because of the illegal activities of shutting off heat and electricity Carter can stay even longer. Carter then deliberately infests the entire apartment with cockroaches which forces the other perfect tenants who live below to move out.

Other interesting things happen within the movie that would make any landlord cringe. In the end, Carter was evicted but the entire apartment was stripped bare of all of its appliances, light fixtures, wood panels and even the toilet.

The moral of the story, although sensationalized is to ensure you do a thorough credit and background check for all parties interested in your rental.