Thursday, September 17, 2015


It all started over a space heater.

Here's the backstory:  To make ends meet, a sixty-eight year old woman, recently widowed, decided to post an ad on Craigslist for a tenant to rent her downstairs bedroom.  (Actually, it was a former living room turned into a bedroom.)  A prospective tenant, a woman in her thirties, came to her house with a car full of belongings, a 14-year old daughter, and a dog.  She explained to the owner of the home that she and her daughter needed a place to live so she could begin her assignment at the local military base Fort Lewis (renamed Joint Base Lewis-McChord or "JBLM") as a medical specialist, and so her daughter could enroll in school.

She thought she was turned down because she had a child and a dog.  The landlady felt a little sorry for the woman and showed her the room.  The young woman and her daughter liked it as soon as they saw it.  So after the requisite paper work was done, they had a room and the landlady had a tenant to help with expenses.

The first indication of a problem occurred one day when the tenant Teresa Dale, left for work, her daughter left for school, and the dog was left in a cage.  All day long the dog whined and barked.  Later that evening, landlady discussed the barking dog issue with her tenant.  The tenant explained that the dog had peed on her pillow and she was punishing him by keeping him in a locked cage all day.  Landlady explained that it was animal abuse - not to mention annoying - and told her to desist from such behavior.  Tenant agreed.

A month or so later, tenant complained  the room was too cold.  She was given a space heater and warned not to leave it on when absent from the house.  She ignored the warning several times.  So one day the landlady entered the room to turn off the space heater.  When tenant returned home, she immediately called the county sheriff to press charges against her landlady for entering into her room without permission [landlord-tenant regulations require a two-day notice unless emergency].  Although the deputy sheriff or clerk who took the call tried to dissuade tenant from filing formal charges [landlady found out later], the charge was filed.

A few weeks later, landlady received a notice in the mail of the charge.  She sent a letter explaining that under the rules and regulations governing landlord-tenant  matters, a landlord is within his or right to enter a tenant's room unannounced if she fears imminent danger to the premises or to a person.

A few weeks later, the landlady received a letter from the county sheriff  (for whom she voted) which offered to clean her record if she would agree to pay over $600.00 to attend a class two times a week for about eight weeks.  Landlady politely declined.

The process continued and the landlady received a letter from the county Prosecuting Attorney.  She then decided to hire an attorney at a cost of $1,500 and planned to have a hearing before a judge.

During this process, tenant did not inform landlady what she had done, and landlady did not tell tenant that she knew what tenant had done.  Everything was "friendly or polite" between the two parties.

Before a hearing could be scheduled, landlady suggested to attorney that he inform the tenant's "witnesses" (a young couple who shared an adjoining room) that they would be subpoenaed for a deposition.  The young couple, by then having relocated to a place 200 miles away, declined to cooperate.

Meanwhile, landlady waited until the end of the month and gave tenant a rent increase of $200.00 monthly or 30 days' notice to vacate premises (in accordance with the rules and regulations, of course).  Tenant chose to pay the higher rent.

What landlady discovered later was that tenant was in trouble at her workplace for "pushing a supervisor who outranked her" and was awaiting a disciplinary hearing by her military command.  Therefore, there was no incentive to move to look for another place to live if she was going to be forced out of the Army.

To summarize, within a couple of months, the tenant moved out of the house and returned to her home in Oklahoma.  Apparently, she had been kicked out of the Army.  Sounds like she had an anger problem.

Lesson learned:  If you're a landlord, don't allow a space heater in rooms or put something in writing that gives permission for you to enter the room, without notice, if a space heater is left on when there is no one around to monitor the safety of the fire hazard.

Another lesson learned:  A background check doesn't tell you whether a tenant is of good character or not.  You often have to live with a person to know how they really are.  (Isn't that why many marriages don't last?  Because people change and start working against each other, not in support of each other.)

This story came about because I "Googled" myself a couple of nights ago, and discovered this charge was made public.  Of small comfort was reading that the  "breaking and entering" charge was dismissed.   However, that's not good enough for me and I am going to return to court to have it expunged.    I was the landlady in this story.  And I am still pissed!  Oh, this reminds me of advice I was given by a friend a couple of decades ago:  "Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk."


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