A Gainesville, Florida Twitter user known as Chaserojo recently returned home to find his home blocked off by yellow police tape. His roommate had allegedly shot her boyfriend in their apartment, and now the dwelling was an official crime scene. Chaserojo live-tweeted some of the aftermath, including a mention of “the authorities” paying to put him up in a hotel room.
Which got us to thinking ... what exactly is the immediate aftermath when a homicide is committed in your home?
Immediately After the Fact…
As soon as police arrive, they secure the crime scene. If you happened to be present when the murder was committed, you will be retained for questioning. After questioning is complete, you will not be allowed back into your home until all the forensic evidence has been collected.
This can take anywhere from several hours to several weeks. In the meantime, you’ll have to find other accommodations (and, in some cases, clothing and essential toiletry items if you’re not allowed to enter the dwelling to collect your belongings).
Who Pays for Everything?
Chaserojo indicated that the “authorities” put him up in a hotel room, since his apartment was sealed while evidence was being compiled. But that doesn’t mean the police paid the bill.
Law enforcement doesn’t do anything in such cases except interview witnesses, take reports and collect evidence. Clean-up and alternate living arrangements are typically the burden of the homeowner/residents.
In Florida, where the user Chaserojo lives, the Attorney General’s office has a Division of Victim Services that provides financial assistance and other support for victims of violent crimes. Many other states have similar organizations. If you end up using your own funds, keep your receipts in case your home owners’ or renters’ insurance policy covers such a loss and can reimburse you.
Now, About That Mess…
Once you are allowed back in your home, you may be surprised by the amount of debris and destruction left behind. If EMS reported to the scene, they often leave their used gloves, medical packaging and wrappers at the scene: This is not sloppiness, but rather a legal requirement in most jurisdictions.
The police will probably have removed their A-frame marking tents, but you might find adhesive tape markers left behind, not to mention fingerprint powder coating many surfaces and large chunks of your carpeting torn up and removed.
The onus of restoring the dwelling to a livable status falls upon the homeowner or landlord. There may be blood and other bits and pieces of human remains that need to be thoroughly removed, and, if you’re thinking of doing the removing yourself, consider this: Most states have laws regarding the disposal of bio-hazardous material, which will likely include any of the remnants of the crime scene.
Luckily, there are licensed companies who specialize in this type of clean-up, and often your insurance will help to defray the cost.
In real estate terms, any dwelling that has had a murder or suicide occur within it is labeled a stigmatized property. Whether this will have any effect on its resale value depends on your jurisdiction and the media coverage of the crime.
Some states require full disclosure when a residence is listed for sale, while others require the truth be revealed only if a potential buyer specifically asks about any such past events. Some realtors who specialize in properties with questionable histories recommend that the seller be honest from the beginning, to avoid any possible legal action if, say, a stray bullet hole is found after the new owners move in.
Owners of properties that were sites of highly publicized crimes often take steps to change the façade of the building–new paint, landscaping, and even a new house number (after petitioning the city for an official address change).
This is to discourage the inevitable “death tourists” that seek out such houses to take photos and even steal “souvenirs”.
After that? Well, after that, you’re on your own.