A Seattle woman had a hunch that an employee at her apartment building was stealing from her. So she set up a hidden camera that caught the employee rifling through her wallet.
It happened at the Identity Apartments on 12th Avenue NE in Seattle's University District.
"I wanted to warn other people," said Chomie Usaneerungrueng, on why she's sharing the video.
The 22-year-old is a student at the University of Washington and said most of the people who rent units in the Identity Apartments are students as well.
But she said this could happen to any renter, anywhere in Seattle.
Usaneerungrueng said she first got suspicious back in December when $400 in cash disappeared from her wallet on the same day that the building's assistant manager conducted a 'quality inspection' of her apartment when she wasn't home.
She called the building's leasing office to express her concern but says no one believed her.
"They said 'no that's not possible, the assistant manager would never do that.' That's what they said to me, and they yelled at me. I can never forget that," she said.
So when she got notice of the next 'quality inspection' in March, Usaneerungrueng decided to take matters into her own hands. Since she knew she would be out of town when that inspection took place, she installed two hidden cameras in her apartment.
The motion sensor cameras sent an alert to her phone when the assistant manager entered the apartment. The woman was caught on camera, digging through Usaneerungrueng's wallet.
"I was angry and scared, and I was so emotional about it because she's supposed to be the landlord," said Usaneerungrueng.
She said the app on her phone only recorded about ten seconds of the video, but Usaneerungrueng was able to view a longer portion of video live as it happened.
"After she put down my wallet I saw her going through every single shelf, looking through every one, seeing if there was anything valuable," she said. "She took a gift card for a fancy restaurant and put it in her pocket. Then she walked around the room and saw the cameras and inspected the cameras. Once she realized it might be a security camera, she appeared to freak out a little bit. So what she did was put my gift card back on the shelf, and she left right away."
She showed the video to apartment management right away.
The company that owns Identity Apartments said the employee violated company policy and was fired immediately.
In a statement, a spokesperson said:
"The safety and privacy of residents and security of their personal property are top priorities at Identity. Upon learning of this isolated incident -- the first of its kind to be reported since the community opened in 2014 -- we immediately reviewed footage of the alleged theft and within hours terminated the employee for violation of company policy. We then notified members of our community and began to work with the resident."
The company said it would be refunding Usaneerungrueng's full security deposit, any pre-paid rent, and the $400 that was allegedly stolen in December.
Usaneerungrueng said she hasn't received that money yet but hopes she will in the next few days. She has already moved out of the Identity Apartments.
She also doesn't believe it was an isolated incident.
The Tenants Union of Washington said rental units being accessed without permission or proper notification is a problem that happens far too often.
"A landlord is supposed to give a tenant at least 48 hours written notice when they're going to be entering that property, and give them a time window on when to expect them. On that notice, there's supposed to be a phone number to where if that time doesn't work for the tenant, they have a chance to reschedule," Jessa Lewis, who is the Executive Director of the Tenants Union, said.
The only time apartment management is legally allowed to enter without notice is in the event of an emergency, like a flooding issue.
A spokesperson for Identity Apartments says 48 hours' notice of entry is always given in the case of "quality inspections."
Usaneerungrueng's advice to other renters is to make sure you're present when those types of inspections take place.
"I want to be able to tell people this can happen, and they should be careful," she said. "Especially for college students. Four hundred dollars is a lot of money to have stolen."
The Tenants Union said Usaneerungrueng also did the right thing by documenting her concerns, in this case, with a video camera.
"If you have any issues with your landlord whatsoever, please, document everything," Lewis said.